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Aug 30, 2012 at 12:40pm IST

Narendra Modi faces Congress ire over remark on malnutrition

New Delhi: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has landed himself in a controversy by his comment on malnutrition, blaming 'beauty-conscious' girls. Grabbing the opportunity, the Congress has slammed Modi saying his focus has always been on GDP and not on health.

"It is clear that health is not a priority in Gujarat. He talks only about GDP. Narendra Modi has been unsuccessful in dealing with education and health," Congress leader Jagdambika Pal said.

ALSO SEE Narendra Modi blames 'beauty-conscious' girls for malnutrition in Gujarat

Law Minister Salman Khurshid said, "I don't know what was the need to make this comment. There are more serious issues which need to be dealt with in Gujarat."

Gujarat Congress President Arjun Modhwadia said Modi's statement was an inuslt to women. "This statement is not only a joke on woman but also an insult to the women of Gujarat. The most anaemic women are tribals and tell me from where are they beauty conscious? The government is not looking after them, there is very little expenditure on women," Modhwadia said.

Congress leader Girija Vyas demanded that Modi takes back his words. "He should take back his words. This statement is making a joke of girls as well as poverty," Vyas said.

The BJP hit back saying the Congress was afraid of Modi. BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said, ""The whole medical fraternity is discussing the presence of anaemia in the not so poor sections of the society. They are discussing various reasons. But Congress has a phobia for Modi. That is why when they listen to the name of Modi, they criticise. I can only pity the Congress because wherever they go, they are afraid of him and that is why they criticise him," Javadekar said.

Modi is making headlines over a controversial statement to The Wall Street Journal. He linked the state's malnutrition to vegetarianism and figure-conscious girls.

"Gujarat is by and large a vegetarian state. And secondly, Gujarat is also a middle-class state. The middle-class is more beauty-conscious than health-conscious – that is a challenge. If a mother tells her daughter to have milk, they'll have a fight. She'll tell her mother, 'I won't drink milk. I'll get fat'," Modi said in the interview.

Modi parried a question whether he sees himself as a future prime minister, saying he was concentrating on Gujarat. "I can't think beyond that," he said.

In the interview, Modi also ruled out an apology for the 2002 Gujarat riots. "One only has to ask for forgiveness if one is guilty of a crime. If you think it's such a big crime, why should the culprit be forgiven? Just because Modi is a chief minister, why should he be forgiven? I think Modi should get the biggest punishment possible if he is guilty. And the world should know there isn't any tolerance for these kind of political leaders," Modi said.

(With additional information from PTI)

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