|Modi greets Syedna Sahib|
Modi personally visited Surat and attended the event. In a rare gesture, he bowed before the Muslim sect leader and also sat by his side. Bohras, a Shia Muslim sect, engaged in business and trade, are concentrated in Western Indian states.
The visit could pave the way for a change in Modi's image among Muslims. Syedna Sahab is the head of the Bohra community and wields influence over the financially-strong community.
Muslims feel that he didn't do enough during the horrific riots that took plcae in the state in the year 2002. Earlier, he had refused to accept a skullcap from a Sufi Muslim cleric last year. This had caused an uproar across the country.
Political watchers believe that for Modi to play a pan-Indian role in the national politics, it is imperative that he becomes acceptable to Muslims, who are the biggest religious minority in India, with a population of over 200 million (20 crore).
A section among Muslims in Gujarat have said that the horrors of 2002 anti-Muslim riots should be forgotten. Some Bohra groups were amongst the first to take steps for reconciliation towards the right-wing BJP that has consistenly been winning Assembly elections in the state.