Ahmedabad: An eventful year in Gujarat saw Narendra Modi convincingly retaining power and emerging as a strong contender for BJP's prime ministerial candidate in the 2014 general elections besides a slew of judgements in the post-Godhra riot cases that convicted many, including former minister Maya Kodnani.
The year proved to be a good one for Modi in the international sphere as well as the UK ended the boycott of Gujarat after 10 years. British High Commissioner James Bevan came to Gandhinagar and met Modi. He also got a clean chit from the Supreme Court-appointed SIT on his role in 2002 riots, when the report was made public by a local court, in a complaint filed by Zakia Jafri, wife of former Congress MP Eshan Jafri who was killed in Gulburg society riot case.
In the polls, Modi overcame incumbency factor and challenge posed by party veteran leader Keshubhai Patel, who rebelled and formed Gujarat Parivartan Party, to score a hat-trick of wins by trouncing Congress, which is out of power in the state for the past 20 years. He took the oath of office on December 26.
Modi's resounding victory has made him a strong contender within the BJP for his projection as prime ministerial candidate for 2014, political observers feel. In the year, judgements of three important riot cases were delivered. All these cases were re-investigated by the SIT.
In the Naroda Patia case of 2002, in which 97 people were killed, a court in August sentenced 32 people to life imprisonment including former BJP minister Kodnani to 28 years and Bajrang Dal functionary Babu Bajrangi to imprisonment till death. In the two riot cases of Ode village, 27 people were given life imprisonment and five seven years for the brutal murders of 26 people. In the Dipda Darwaza riot case of Mehsana district, the court sentenced 21 to life imprisonment and also sent a retired police inspector to jail for a year.
After the SIT's clean chit to Modi, Zakia suffered another blow when a local court rejected her right to file a protest petition against the closure report of the SIT as she failed to do it even after seven months. On September 9, father of 'white revolution' Verghese Kurien, who led Operation Flood to make India the biggest milk producing nation in the world, passed away.
Differences between Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal and Modi also escalated this year after a third judge of Gujarat High Court ruled in favour of appointment of Lokayukta made by the former by-passing the state cabinet. The state government has challenged this decision in the Supreme Court where judgement is likely to be pronounced early next year. Beniwal, in an another decision, sanctioned prosecution of state Fisheries Minister Purshottam Solanki in an alleged Rs 400 crore fisheries contract scam overruling the state cabinet headed by Modi. In a reply, BJP dug out a land grabbing case against her in Rajashtan and sought her resignation.
For Opposition Congress, the year ended in a whimper. The party, which had started election campaign a year ago, managed to run it in a sustained and aggressive manner throughout the year but at the fag end lost the plot due to high level dissidence within its ranks and numerous cross overs. One of their senior leaders Narhari Amin joined BJP just seven days ahead of the first phase of voting on December 13 disturbing the apple cart. State Congress president Arjun Modhwadia and state legislature party leader Shaktishin Gohil went on to lose elections. Modhwadia also resigned from his post.
For the Congress, one of their MPs, Vitthal Radadia elected from Porbandar, caused them embarrassment in the campaign run-up, when he brandished a gun at toll booth plaza staff, when they demanded toll tax from him. 84-year-old BJP veteran Keshubhai Patel, who formed his party GPP barely four months ahead of polls with an aim to dislodge Modi from power, could only win two seats. But it dented the prospects of BJP in around 10 seats due to triangular fight denying Modi two-third majority in the 182 member state assembly.
In a first, Modi used 3D holographic projection technology to address poll rallies simultaneously at different locations. In a major crash, IAF MI-17 helicopters collided mid-air near Jamnagar on August 30 killing nine officers on board. In another mishap in November, IAF's Mig 21 'Bison' fighter aircraft crash landed when it was on a routine sortie after taking off from the Nailya air base in Kutch district,
However, the pilot managed to eject safely. Two important cases were handed over to CBI by the high court during the year - 23 children suffering from thalassemia contracting HIV allegedly during blood transfusion at Junagadh Civil hospital in 2011 and the 2010 murder of RTI activist Amit Jethwa