As the election campaign enters into a decisive phase, Congress on Friday invoked the former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to nail BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. Party sources said a group of young professionals, manning Congress war room, dug out a video of Vajpayee allegedly pulling up Modi for not performing 'Rajdharma' during the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
The party website eulogies Vajpayee saying the BJP seems to have forgotten him. "But every Indian must ponder over the questions he raised on the man who is now the BJP's prime ministerial candidate," the Congress added.
However, the party spokesperson clarified there was no love for Vajpayee. Asked if they took this step because their own leaders have failed to take on Modi, Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said it was done to tell voters that Modi was not even acceptable to top BJP leaders.
But knives were already out in Congress with many leaders objecting using Vajpayee, whom the party had fought tooth and nail in the past to gain electoral mileage. The headline on the Congress website goes: "Nobody to remind BJP of its Rajdharma," with a Vajpayee's photo and a question: How can a person whom the tallest leader of the BJP wanted removed as chief minister, be the party's prime ministerial candidate?
"Vajpayee jis vyakti ko mukhyamantri pad ke bhi yogya nahi samazte the, kya aap desh ka bhavishya us vyakti ke haatho me de sakte hain? (Can you entrust the future of the country in the hands of the person whom Vajpayee felt unfit to be the CM?"
The Congress said no leader in the BJP can match the stature of Vajpayee. It said he was clear what was the reason for the defeat in 2004 elections: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's failure to control the communal pogrom in his state in 2002. He believed that the party will lose its credibility unless it took action against Modi. "Some people wanted to remove him. I was of the same opinion," said Vajpayee in Manali.
"This is confirmed by Jaswant Singh, who held key portfolios in the NDA government. He states that in 2002 Vajpayee had even threatened to resign unless the BJP took action against Modi."
Vajpayee wrote a series of letters to Modi instructing to do all that is necessary for the riot victims, but to no avail, the Congress said, referring to media reports. The Congress went on to ask: "Will a chief minister who failed to protect his citizens, who discriminated between people on the basis of religion, who made a mockery of people's suffering, ever make a good Prime Minister?
The Congress went on to attack the BJP saying that having found a new icon in Modi, it is working hard to distance itself from the Vajpayee's legacy. Vajpayee niece Karuna Shukla had recently joined the Congress. Jaswant Singh, a close confidante of Vajpayee, has been expelled from the party. And Subramainan Swamy, a known adversary of Vajpayee, has been given a prominent place in the BJP, the Congress said.