Playing his OBC background card, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Sunday said the Congress was not ready to take on a “tea vendor” from “a backward caste” in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Modi, who was wrapping up the mega conclave of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) here, also ridiculed the Congress for not naming its prime minister nominee and said the party was apprehensive about a defeat.
“There can be several reasons for running away (from the battlefield) but I see a human angle as well...Which mother would sacrifice her son in politics? So a mother’s heart decided that she must save her son,” he said, referring to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s decision of not naming her son Rahul Gandhi as the party’s PM nominee.
In response to Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar's recent remark that Modi cannot become the PM but was welcome to sell tea at Congress meets, he said those born in “high families” consider it an insult to fight polls against a “backward” candidate.
“They think they should fight in elections. They think they should win elections. But (to compete) against a chai wallah, they feel insulted,” Modi said, invoking his humble past in a speech that stressed the welfare of the poor and backward sections.
“The traditions in which they have grown up, their minds are feudalistic,” he added, apparently referring to the Nehru-Gandhi family.
Modi, hitherto, has always appeared refrained from talking about his OBC background himself, though he has often talked of his past as a tea seller.
His playing the OBC card was seen as a politically significant move considering that the BJP has high stakes in caste-influenced Uttar Pradesh (80) and Bihar (40) — two states which collectively account for 120 seats.
Modi said the January 16 All India Congress Committee (AICC) session, where Sonia reiterated her decision not to project Congress vice-president Rahul as the PM candidate, was about “saving their party”. But the BJP’s national council’s agenda, according to Modi, was to “save the country”.
Modi said AICC delegates had gathered learn the name of the PM candidate. “But they went back with three LPG cylinders,” he said, referring to the government’s decision of raising the number of subsidised LPG cylinders from nine to 12 in response to Rahul’s demand.
He questioned the Congress’ contention that by not naming Rahul it was following the tradition of not naming a PM candidate as the person should be elected by the MPs “democratically”. Modi referred to 1984, when Rajiv Gandhi was declared the Prime Minister after the assassination of his mother Indira Gandhi.
He also mentioned that in 2004, when Congress MPs elected Sonia Gandhi to be the PM, she chose to “nominate” Manmohan Singh for the top job.
(With PTI inputs)