Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Nitin Gadkari on Saturday drew a parallel between Mahatma Gandhi and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, saying that both worked ceaselessly for their poverty stricken countrymen.
The BJP chief, who was on his first visit to Gujarat after taking over the reigns of the party, arrived here to pay homage to the Mahatma on his 62nd death anniversary and also participate in the "Garib Kalyan Mela", a welfare scheme of the state government, organised to coincide with the occasion.
The event was, however, marred by controversy as Arjun Modvadia, the Congress legislator from Porbandar and an invitee to the function, was detained Saturday morning. He was released later in the day after the function got over.
Describing Modi as the number one chief minister, Gadkari said that he, like Mahatma Gandhi and Jan Sangh founder Deen Dayal Upadhayay, saw politics as an instrument to alleviate poverty and worked for national unity and equality.
Accompanied by Modi, the BJP chief visited the Kirti Mandir, the ancestral home and birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi in Porbandar to pay his homage and later inaugurated an exhibition of sand sculptors on Gandhi's life and thought, before attending the Garib Kalyan Mela where the chief minister distributed government aid to the poor in Porbandar.
Gadkari said that he was happy to be in Porbandar on the death anniversary of the Mahatma. "I also happy to unveil the statue of the late Deen Dayal Upadhyay, who like Gandhiji, strove tirelessly for the poorest of the poor."
Speaking to media persons while inaugurating the sand sculpture exhibition, Gadkari said both Gandhi and Modi harnessed politics for development. "Eradicating poverty should be the goal of politics and Mr. Modi is striving hard to this end," he said.
"I am very impressed by his scheme of organising Garib Kalyan Melas as it effectively uproots middlemen and ensures that the fruits of the government effort at improving the lot of the poor reach their hands directly," he added.
Meanwhile, the Congress reacted strongly to the arrest of Modvadia and also attacked Modi for turning an official programme into a party function.
State Congress unit chief Siddhartha Patel condemned the arrest and charged that the chief minister was hiding the fact that the bulk of the aid being distributed to the poor was coming from the centre.
Modhvadia himself alleged that he was detained only because the state government knew that he would protest against the continued villification of the central leaders by Modi.