A day after exit polls predicted a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sweep in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh assembly elections, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh gave the BJP another reason to cheer saying the saffron party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was moving away from "fanatic" ideology.
Referring to the BJP PM nominee's humble background, Singh said "even a tea vendor can become the prime minister."
The BJP latched on to the comments, with party leader Smriti Irani saying, "We had not thought that Digvijaya Singh will say that even a chaiwallah can become the prime minister...I am happy that Modiji is being praised so much by Digvijaya Singhji."
Known as a fierce critic of Modi, Singh has trained his guns on the Gujarat chief minister recently over the snooping controversy that surfaced in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and during campaigning for assembly polls in five states - Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram.
But on Thursday, while speaking at a convention organised by a renowned media group, Singh said he welcomed that "Modi is gradually distancing from his fanatic ideology and gravitating towards the ideology of Atal Bihari Vajpayee."
He added that "it should be welcomed if the Sangh (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and the BJP...are coming close to the ideology of the Congress and (Jawaharlal) Nehru."
The Congress leader said, "Even a tea vendor can become the prime minister... Nobody is untouchable in a democracy, irrespective of the family he is born in."
Singh's remarks come less than a month after Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal took a dig at Modi and said a tea vendor cannot become the prime minister, triggering a major controversy during the just-concluded assembly polls.
However, Singh rubbished the exit poll results in the five states, saying Modi is not a factor for the Congress.
While Vajpayee and Sushma Swaraj can be acceptable "Modi will not be acceptable to people of India" as the country's basic temperament is one that favours communal harmony, Singh added.
The Congress leader said he would prefer Sushma Swaraj to Modi "if god forbid BJP comes to power".
Responding to criticism that the Congress is fine with the party being in the hands of a family and some special people calling the shots but does not like common workers rising as in the BJP, Singh said it was not true.