The Finance Minister conceded that the Hindu nationalist leader had united the rank and file of the Bharatiya Janata Party and “gained some traction among urban youths”, but said the rising political star was someone with a “very, very chequered track record”.
Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram has dismissed the emergence of opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) figurehead and candidate for Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the national political stage as “largely media created”, even as he said that the time had come for the torch to be passed on to a “new and younger generation”.
The Finance Minister conceded that the Hindu nationalist leader had united the rank and file of the Bharatiya Janata Party and “gained some traction among urban youths”, but said the rising political star was someone with a “very, very chequered track record”. Modi is widely credited with bringing investment, regular electricity supplies and infrastructure to the State of Gujarat, where he has been Chief Minister for more than a decade.
But Chidambaram downplayed the double-digit growth enjoyed by the coastal State, referring to a new national development index that gave it a middling “less developed” ranking. Modi was chief Minister of Gujarat when deadly communal riots raged there in 2002. He has always vehemently denied charges that he turned a blind eye to the violence, and a Supreme Court inquiry found no evidence to prosecute him.
Chidambaram said the current economic downturn was no reason to think that his Congress party, which has been weakened by years of fractious coalition rule and a string of corruption scandals, would be ousted in 2014 General Elections that must be held by May. “Don’t write us off so easily,” he said, adding that the next leader of the Congress party would be Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has ruled India for most of its 66 years since independence. “I am glad you acknowledge Prime Minister Rahul Gandhi, but that is a question you should put to him,” Chidambaram said, when asked if he would serve again in a Government led by the party’s heir apparent if Congress wins a third straight term in office. “The time has come for the torch to be passed on to a new and younger generation.”