New Delhi: Dubbing Narendra Modi as a "very divisive figure", Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday said the Bharatiya Janata Party has "not changed its spots" and people will reject the party in the next Lok Sabha elections as it represents an idea which is against secularism and inclusiveness. He accused the BJP of raking up divisive issues like Uniform Civil Code, Ayodhya and abrogation of Article 370 and people will reflect upon all these issues while voting.
Refusing to get into a discussion whether Modi as BJP's prime ministerial candidate would be good or bad for the Congress, he said his party was not fighting any individual but an idea represented by the BJP which was rejected in 2004 and 2009. He mocked at the elevation of Modi as Election Campaign Committee chief, saying he was such a divisive person that there is a "lot of rebellion" within his party, starting from the top, apparently referring to the resignation by LK Advani.
"We think Mr Modi is a very divisive figure, which is why there is a lot of rebellion within his party. For the first time I have seen there is a rebellion starting at the very top," Chidambaram said. "I think there are large sections of people in the country who will be very apprehensive of voting for the BJP if Mr Modi is their candidate. But that is the choice they have to make. But once they make their choice, the people will make their choice," the senior Congress leader added.
Chidambaram stressed the Congress was "not fighting against a candidate" but is pitted against other parties in terms of what its idea of India is. "Our idea of India is an India that is secular that believes in inclusive growth. An India that does not leave behind any section, especially the more disadvantageous sections.
"The BJP's idea of India is a very different idea of India and that was roundly defeated in 2004 and 2009. In 2004, it was defeated even when they were led by the formidable Mr Vajpayee. They didn't accept the fact that the six years he had given a kind of governance which deserved another term. They rejected it," he said.
In an apparent dig at Advani, Chidambaram said in 2009, people of the country rejected "someone who was presented as a strong leader as against someone who was painted falsely as a weak leader. The people once again rejected their idea of India".
Attacking BJP's policies, he said, "I don't think they are reflecting on what the idea of India should be. They are persisting with the old idea of India, which was rejected in 2004, which was rejected in 2009 and I'm sure if they repeat that idea of India and in an even more distorted manner, under an even more divisive leader, it will once be defeated again in 2014."
Asked if the Congress was afraid of facing a "stronger" leader in the form of Modi, Chidambaram said, "I don't know who is stronger or who's weaker. We had a 'loh purush' (iron man) in 2009, but we got 61 more seats. They got fewer seats than they had previously." The comment was yet another dig at Advani who was
showcased by the BJP as a "strong man" pitted against "weak" Manmohan Singh. "Stronger or weaker are all part of the myth-making and I'm afraid the media is becoming drawn into this myth-making," he said.
"The BJP, if it sticks to its idea of India which was rejected in 2004 and 2009, thinks it poses a challenge, but let me remind you that that idea of India was rejected twice in 2004 and 2009," he added. Hitting out at the BJP, he said its president was "mocking at secularism" by calling it 'secularitis', a disease. "It shows that they have no faith in secularism."
He also referred to Advani's recent statement, calling for repeal of Article 370 (which grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir) and talking about Uniform Civil Code. "Some other BJP leaders say demolition of Babri Masjid was right and temple should be built at that place," he said, adding "It means BJP has not changed its spots. You think people of India will not reflect on all this? He emphasised that howsoever "noisy and loud our democracy may be, it must be secular and genuinely, deeply and unwavering to inclusive growth."
Conceding that there could be problems in the UPA government, he said, "Nobody is denying that. There will be successes and failures but ultimately people vote for...ultimately people vote not according to their immediate interests but in the interest of future of their children and grand children, to preserve the idea of India". Asked about the much-touted Gujarat model of development, the Finance Minister termed it as "flawed" and said there was "a bit of exaggeration" about it.
"Like every model, there are some positive elements. But by and large it's a flawed model. It is a model that does not believe in inclusive growth. It is a model that has left large sections of the people of Gujarat behind. "Secondly, a model that may have worked in Gujarat over a period of few years may not be the model that will work for the whole country," he said.
He went on to explain that every state in the country is not situated in the way Gujarat is situated. Citing the cases of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, he said Gujarat model cannot be applied there. "So I think the Gujarat model is a bit of an exageration. We ought to have a model that works in the whole country and I
don't think the Gujarat model will work for the whole country," Chidambaram said.
He also had a dig at reports that Modi had ensured rescue of 15,000 Gujaratis from flood-hit Uttarakhand. "I'm sure, if allowed, his managers, handlers will have
claimed that he rescued 1.5 lakh," he said, adding he had done "a bit of maths" and came to conclusion that pressing into service 80 Innova vehicles and four planes could have carried only a maximum of 2300 people even if cramped. "Secondly, rescue is one thing, transportation is another thing. I think they mixed up transporting people from Dehradun to rescuing them from where the disaster struck," he said.
"This another type of myth-making. These are indicators that you get into myth-making, you tend to get carried away," he said. To a question about whether he could be a candidate for prime ministership, he said he knew his limitations. Asked whether an "economist" like him should succeed Manmohan Singh as the Prime Minister, Chidambaram said, "No. You can't seduce me by these arguments. I have made it very clear that I know my limitations. I work according to my limitations. And when I think I have reached the limit of my limitations. I know what I will do, which is travel, read and write."