Ahmedabad: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday began his three-day fast for "peace, unity and communal harmony" in the BJP-ruled state.

The BJP stalwart's 72-hour fast under `Sadbhavna Mission' coincides with his 62nd birthday. The venue, Gujarat University Convention Centre here - where a host of leaders from the BJP and its key ally Shiromani Akali Dal have arrived - has been put under strict vigil by the police.

On the eve of fast, Modi had issued a statement that was interpreted as his first sign of regret over the 2002 post-Godhra communal violence.

"Constitution of India is supreme for us. As a Chief Minister of the state, pain of anybody in the state is my pain. (Delivering) Justice to everyone is the duty of the state," Modi had said on Friday.

Modi, in an attempt to reach out to the minority community, had said the state has realised that communal frenzy and casteism never helped anybody grow in the country and expressed "gratitude" to those who pointed out his mistakes in the last 10 years.

BJP leaders like L K Advani, Arun Jaitely, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Sahanawaz Hussain, Smriti Irani and Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh Prem Kumar Dhumal, among others, were present when Modi began his fast.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, whose party Shiromani Akali Dal is a key member of the BJP-led NDA, was also present.

Leaders of Shiv Sena, BJP's ally for over two decades, and emissaries of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha of AIADMK are also expected to come here to in support of Modi.

In response to Modi's move, Gujarat Congress leaders Shankarsinh Vaghela and Arjun Modhvadia also started their fast on a footpath in front of Sabarmati Ashram.

After the Supreme Court order in a Gujarat riots case on Monday that gave him some relief, Modi announced the fast for three days calling it a 'Sadbhavna Mission'.

Sources in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation(AMC) said that a small room at the GU Convention Hall has been converted into a rest room for Modi.

The state Government has made arrangements to provide real time information about the unfolding events at Modi's fast venue.

The entire event can be witnessed by those with Internet access through live webcast on Modi's official website.

Tight security arrangements have been made at fast venues of Modi and Vaghela, police said.

Vaghela, Modhvadia start fast to counter Modi

Meanwhile, Gujarat Congress leaders Shankarsinh Vaghela and Arjun Modhvadia began their fast as a counter to Chief Minister Narendra Modi's three-day fast here.

The Congress leaders launched their fast an hour before Modi's fast which began at around 10 am.

The Congress has dubbed Modi's fast as "five star" as it being held in an air-conditioned hall. Vaghela and Modhvadia are sitting on a footpath in front of Sabarmati Ashram, the Opposition leaders pointed out.

"In today's administration, where five and seven star culture is being used as a weapon for image building in self interest, I want to ask through you people (media), what was the necessity to go on a fast. Have heavens fallen on the public of Gujarat?" he said while talking to reporters.

"What was the necessity to spend several crores of public money. If he wanted to fast, he (Modi) could have done that at home also. As Chief Minister there was no necessity to do such a `tamasha' (public show off).

"It is a corrupt Government, a Government which has been running away from Lokayukta, and we want to show this to the people of country," the former Chief Minister said.

"There are allegations of corruption against the Government. The state public debt has mounted to Rs 1.30-lakh crore, about which the people of Gujarat are not aware. This is the kind of development we are talking about," Vaghela said.

The Chief Minister announced his fast after a Supreme Court order, which he interpreted as a clean chit to him in a post-Godhra riots case, Vaghela said.

"Now, he wants to project himself as a messiah of the minorities by undertaking such a fast and wants to show that he is their protector."

"If there is a justifiable cause for fast by the Chief Minister, we can understand it. He is saying this fast is for sadbhavna (harmony), but his fast is based on farce, falsehood and corruption," Vaghela claimed.

(Agencies)