As the Congress powered its political onslaught on BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, it invoked former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and highlighted the BJP's internal feuds to fire salvoes at Modi on Friday.
Congress insiders said the party’s Modi-centric attacks will sharpen in the coming days even though the BJP seems confident that this strategy will boomerang.
A Congress blog claimed that Vajpayee, the first non-Congress PM to complete a full five-year term, had said after the NDA's defeat in 2004 that "Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's failure to control the communal riots in his state in 2002 was the reason for the defeat."
The BJP hit back, with senior party leader M Venkaiah Naidu retorting that "the Congress has forgotten its own leaders. Now, in the morning they remember Advani, in the evening, Atal ji. Tomorrow (it will be) Sushma ji and then Modi ji".
Rallying strongly behind Modi, the BJP's Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the Congress is running out of issues.
The Congress even quoted former finance and foreign minister Jaswant Singh—who was expelled from the BJP recently—to "confirm" that Vajpayee had said, "Some people wanted to remove him (Modi). I was of the same opinion."
The Congress asked: "How can a person whom the tallest leader of the BJP wanted removed as chief minister, be the party's prime ministerial candidate?"
"He (Jaswant Singh) states that in 2002, Vajpayee had even threatened to resign unless the BJP took action against Modi," said the Congress blog.
The latest attack on Modi clearly shows a major change in the Congress campaign strategy for the 2014 elections. In the initial phase, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi focused only on the UPA's achievements. But now, in the final stage, the party is taking Modi head on.
In fact, after the defeat of the Congress in the assembly elections last December, Gandhi had announced, "The Congress party has a vision and perspective of this country. Our job is to push our perspective and what we focus on. What the BJP and other parties are doing is their concern."
Friday's attack also coincided with Gandhi's jab on Modi at an election rally over the latter's acknowledgement of his wife's identity. The Congress also pointed out that Vajpayee's niece Karuna Shukla was "forced to leave the BJP" and joined the Congress.
"Vajpayee's close confidant Jaswant Singh has been expelled while Subramanian Swamy, a known adversary of Vajpayee, holds a prominent place in the BJP," the blog added.