Ahmedabad: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday began his three-day fast for "peace and communal harmony", saying the success of his endeavour would mean an end to votebank politics.

He also said that the fast was not against anybody.

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"We want to take this spirit to each and every village each and every house. This fast is not against anybody and I don't want to speak about anybody. Gujarat wants to move forward. We want to be in service of India," Modi said.

"We want to move together and Sadhbhavna (harmony) will be our strength. Development is our only motto. We will be a model for the world on how development can be achieved with peace, harmony and brotherhood," the BJP stalwart said, addressing a gathering at Gujarat University convention centre, the venue of Modi's fast here.

Speaking about the fast, he said "It was the need of the hour."

"Unity, peace and harmony have a major role to play in our success, our development. Because we have treaded this path and I wanted this message to reach out to people, this fast was the best mean to do so," he maintained.

"Six crore Gujarati have gone through a lot of penance to ensure such a situation. If I fast my words would carry more weight and I will be able to reach out to more people. This was the only objective behind the fast and there was no grudge against anybody, he said.

"Over the last 10 years we have been vilified. I have faced every attack so that you (people) do not feel the pain. I want to ensure that Gujarat never slips below the parameters of humanity," Modi said.

He sought strength from God so he is able to dedicate his entire life to the people of Gujarat.

"May God give me strength not to have any bitterness or vengeance ever for anyone," Modi said.

The Chief Minister said the entire country and the world was discussing the development in Gujarat be it in industrial, agricultural, rural, education or in health sectors.

"Gujarat has been successful in its experiments in all sectors and has scaled new heights. After the 2001 earthquake, Gujarat was devastated and many thought it would never rise again, but Gujarat has proved them wrong."

"Even the World Bank says that if a nation faces disaster like the 2001 earthquake it would take them at least seven years to rebuild, but the state did this in three years which is a big achievement."

"In the very next year, 2002, Gujarat saw gruesome communal riots. This incident once again renewed the discussion that Gujarat has gone back on the path of destruction, but we handled this situation strictly and with strength," the BJP leader said.

"The stones that were thrown on us have been used by us to build staircase," Modi said.

Inter-faith harmony at Modi’s fast venue

Dressed in their traditional attire, people from the Muslim community were seen in large numbers at the venue of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's fast which also saw people from other faiths marking their presence.

Priests of various religions -- Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism -- and sects such as Swaminarayan sat alongside Modi and other top BJP leaders who have come from across the country to support the `sadbhavana' fast.

Modi himself arrived at 10 AM and sought blessings of all the religious leaders on the stage before taking his seat. He was greeted by BJP leaders LK Advani, Arun Jaitley, Ravishankar Prasad and some NDA leaders who were present.

Modi, who became poster boy for aggressive Hindutava politics after 2002 communal riots, has been on an image make-over drive in the last few years.

He faced and continues to face accusations of a biased handling of 2002 riots, in which over 1,000 people – mostly Muslims -- died.

At the fast venue on Saturday, people from the Muslim community were seen in large number, dressed in traditional attire with caps. Women from the community too were seen in a substantial number.

Before Modi's speech, there was slogan-shouting by the people of the minority community, in his praise. Members of Sikh community in the gathering too greeted the Chief Minister with religious slogans. (Soon after Modi's arrival, a bhajan was played and the Chief Minister was seen lip-syncing. The announcer said the bhajan was one of Modi's favourites.

After the speeches, many from the minority community -- men and women -- came to the stage to greet Modi.

Outside too, groups of Muslims, along with BJP youth leaders shouted pro-Modi and pro-BJP slogans.

Congress says Modi's fast does not lessen his crime

Narendra Modi's fast on Saturday drew sharp reactions from major political parties with Congress saying fasts do not lessen Gujarat Chief Minister's "crimes" and Samajwadi Party attributing it to "power struggle" within the BJP.

"Modi is feeling the need to fast, which means he has realized his involvement in crimes in Gujarat but fast cannot change anyone's character. Fast does not lessen Modi's crimes," Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said.

Samajwadi Party general secretary Mohan Singh said Modi has "no moral right" to fast as he has not followed Rajdharma and still lots of women were running from pillar to post for justice including the wife of former Home Minister Haren Pandya.

He claimed the fast is aimed at foiling L K Advani's attempt to bring himself to the forefront as BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate.

"The fast was reflective of the power struggle in the BJP with Modi wanting to grab the centre stage at a time when Advani is re-asserting himself," the SP leader said.

 JD-U President Sharad Yadav dismissed the publicity surrounding the fast.     "Seventy to eighty percent of people make a living at Rs 20 a day. 80 per cent people fast daily. The most of the countrymen fast regularly whether they do it for half day or full day. Nobody talks about them but fasts by individuals are discussed," Yadav said.

The BJP on the other hand termed the fast as "historic" and party leaders LK Advani and Arun Jaitely praised the political leadership of Modi.