A row over Narendra Modi's OBC status erupted today with the BJP and Gujarat government rejecting the Congress stand questioning the authenticity of his claim while the rival party stuck to its position that he is a "fake" OBC.
The BJP also took a swipe at the Congress, saying the caste of its Prime Ministerial candidate has become a major cause of "worry" for that party.
The Gujarat government on its part pulled out its two-decade old notification which says the Modh-Ghanchi (oil-pressers) caste, to which the Chief Minister belongs, was included in Other Backward Castes (OBCs) category.
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said that though Modi has never made caste as his identity and his appeal cuts across castes and communities, the Congress worry is apparent as the ruling dynasty of the Congress cannot "digest defeat" at the hands of a commoner.
Rebutting Congress spokesman Shaktisinh Gohil's claim that Modi got 'Modh Ghanchi' community to which belongs, included in the OBC list a year after he became Chief Minister in October 2001, Jaitley said the community was added to the OBC category in Gujarat on July 25, 1994 by the Congress party government headed by Chhabildas Mehta and the Mandal Commission list by the Centre on April 4, 2000.
Holding that Congress had earlier made Modi's "humble origin" as a tea vendor into an issue but the movebackfired, Jaitley asked in his blog whether Congress believed that every time a caste is added to the OBC list it is a sin (paap)? Another party leaader M Venkaiah Naidu also attacked Congress for targeting Modi.
"We are fighting elections on the issue of development and good governance...," he said.
Congress rejected Gujarat government's claim about the two-decade old notification.
"Whatever Congress spokesman Shaktisinh Gohil said yesterday is absolutely correct because the notification was issued by the Gujarat Government on Jan 1, 2002 when Modi was the Chief Minister", party General Secretary Ajay Maken told reporters to a volley of questions in Delhi.
He said what was "surprising" is that the notification of the Centre on the OBC category to the Modh-Ghanchi community came just six months before Modi became Chief Minister "so that when he is made CM, it could be shown that he is an OBC Chief Minister."
Gohil, a known detractor of Modi, yesterday released a Guajrat government circular claiming that a year after he became Chief Minister in October 2001, it declared 'Modh Ghanchis' to which Modi belongs, as OBCs.
"In the way encounters were fake in Gujarat, Modi is also a fake OBC," he said, adding the Chief Minister belongs to an upper caste but has "manipulated" OBC status for political gains.