A day after finance minister P Chidambaram acknowledged BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as a “challenger”, home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said the Gujarat chief minister was no match for the 125-year-old Congress that had overcome many such challenges.
“Narendra Modi is not a challenge to the Congress,” Shinde told reporters on Monday.
“The Congress is a big party, and a very old party. It has already completed 125 years of its existence. The party has its own identity.”
Referring to the NDA’s campaign called India Shining before the 2004 general elections, Shinde said, “In 2004, there was a big challenge... India Shining. But the people of this country gave their mandate to the Congress and the party has been in power for the past ten years.”
The Congress has so far played down Modi as a contender, while the BJP has been projecting him as the party’s trump card ahead of the 2014 general elections.
However, Chidambaram on Sunday had conceded that the Gujarat chief minister could not be ignored by the Congress.
“As a political party, we acknowledge that he (Modi) is a challenger. We cannot ignore him,” Chidambaram had said during an event in Goa.
Read: Modi a ‘challenger’ Cong can’t ignore, admits Chidambaram
But Shinde countered his Cabinet colleague’s remarks.
“I am speaking on behalf of me and my party. I cannot say about others,” said Shinde, who is also leader of the House in Lok Sabha.
These differing statements by the finance minister and home minister likely reflect the ongoing debate within the Congress on how to counter the controversial Gujarat CM, who has been projecting a larger-than-life image.
Shinde also dismissed the BJP’s accusation that the UPA government had committed a “diplomatic blunder” by allowing Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s advisor to meet Kashmiri separatist leaders in New Delhi.
The home minister said Hurriyat leaders had been meeting Pakistani leaders, including visiting Presidents, since 1999 when the NDA was in power.