New Delhi:Â Smack in the middle of the national election that many believe it can’t win, the Congress has taken to a new line of offensive to target Narendra Modi, using his own party leader Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Mr Vajpayee’s image was prominent on the Congress’ official website today, with a message that invoked the former prime minister’s words criticising the 2002 riots in Mr Modi’s Gujarat.
“Modi did not follow Rajdharma (A ruler’s duty)”, said the Congress’ ad, calling it the fundamental cause of Mr Vajpayee’s pain.
“Just think! Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vapayee did not think this man deserved to be chief minister, can you put the country’s future in his hands?” says the ad.
The BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “the Congress has become intellectually bankrupt.”
Mr Vajpayee, 89, considered the BJP’s tallest leader, retired from active politics in 2006. He was Prime Minister from 1998 to 2004.
When the riots tore through Gujarat in February, 2002, Mr Vajpayee had reportedly told Mr Modi, the Chief Minister, that “Rajdharma should be followed.” (read: Modi denies Vajpayee rapped him over Rajdharma)
Mr Modi’s critics say he didn’t do enough to check the violence that left nearly 1,000 dead, mostly Muslims. A Supreme Court monitored inquiry said it found no evidence of Mr Modi’s role in the riots, an assessment that was upheld by a trial court last year.
The Congress website says: “No leader in the BJP can match the stature of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Mr Vajpayee was clear what was the reason for the defeat. 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 Mr Modi. (sic)”
The party goes on to quote Jaswant Singh, a former minister who was close to Mr Vajpayee, as saying that Mr Vajpayee had threatened to resign unless the BJP took action against Mr Modi.
Jaswant Singh was expelled last month by the BJP for six years, for contesting as an independent candidate from Barmer, Rajasthan, after the party refused to field him there.