Congress today resurrected the "maut ka saudagar" barb against Narendra Modi, blaming him for the Godhra incident and the subsequent communal riots in Gujarat, and said the description fitted the BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate.
BJP had lost three bye-elections after Modi became Chief Minister but after that he "allowed" the Godhra train tragedy and the riots. "If you don't call him maut ka saudagar (merchant of death), how else can you describe him," party spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil told reporters.
His remarks came in a response to a question on whether Congress still thinks that Modi is 'maut ka saudagar'.
The comments of Gohil, a former CLP leader of Gujarat and known detractor of Modi, is bound to kick up a row as Sonia Gandhi's same barb during the campaign in Gujarat assembly elections in 2007 had sparked a huge political controversy.
After the crushing defeat of the party, Congress had refrained from making such remarks fearing a communal polarisation as Modi had used it to the hilt to his advantage.
The Congress spokesperson's comments came even as Rahul Gandhi has in last many interactions with party leaders asked them to refrain from personal attacks.
However, it is also true that Congress has stepped up attack on Modi in the last few days as campaigning for Lok Sabha election picks up.
Gohil also met Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and presented him a memorandum citing several "deficiencies" in the coastal security of Gujarat, which is bordering Pakistan.
He told Shinde that he had already submitted a letter in this regard to the Chief Minister, who has so far failed to respond.
Gohil also took a dig at a BJP delegation meeting the Home Minister seeking security for its leaders and said that contrary to their claim that there are intelligence reports of threat to them, the Home Minister said that there was no such report from the Intelligence Bureau.
"I want to ask them whether the IB reports to the Home Minister or BJP. Such issues should not be politicised," he said.
Gohil also said that BJP leaders were not concerned about the security of countrymen and wondered "whether the blood of BJP leaders is blood and that of other Indians water." The Congress spokesperson gave a point wise rebuttal of Modi's development talk, noting that Gujarat's Agriculture Minister had told the state Assembly that 85 farmers committed suicide in Gujarat in financial year 2012-2013.
"Gujarat is the only state, where dependents of farmers committing suicide are not given a penny. 3.5 lakh farmers have left agriculture in Gujarat while the number of labourers has increased by 17 lakh there. This is his development model," he said claiming that figures are from a state government survey report.