New Delhi, July 29: After the Samajwadi Party, Narendra Modi has succeeded in embarrassing the Congress and Team Anna. Both were left squirming today by pro-Modi remarks made in public by people from within the fold.
The Congress is considering demanding an explanation from its Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Jawaharlal Darda, who reportedly extolled the Gujarat chief minister as a “lion” at an Ahmedabad event.
A Team Anna member today criticised yoga practitioner Baba Ramdev, who had recently joined the group’s campaign against UPA “corruption”, for his praise of Modi at the same function.
The developments come a day after the Samajwadi Party was forced to disown Shahid Siddiqui, its face on national TV, for publishing an interview with Modi in his Urdu weekly.
Like Siddiqui, who publishes and edits Nai Duniya, Darda is chairman and chief editor of Marathi daily Lokmat. His comments, reported by PTI, came at a Digambar Jain Samaj event.
“From the kind of environment that prevails at this event, I can see that the enthusiasm here is for a lion from Gujarat. Modi’s commitment and dedication towards his work is like that of a lion,” he was quoted as saying.
Modi immediately seized on the remarks’ potential to embarrass the Congress. In his speech, he said: “I hope this does not become breaking news. I hope Dardaji is not summoned by the Congress high command and asked to resign.”
Gujarat BJP sources said they would throw Darda’s “endorsement” of Modi in the Congress’s teeth whenever it tried to “undermine” the chief minister.
“Darda may not be a prominent leader but he is a Congress MP and that itself gives us sufficient ammunition,” a state BJP official argued.
Asked whether the Congress would start disciplinary proceedings against Darda, chief spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi replied: “Let us first ascertain the facts from the state in-charge.”
Party sources said the central minder for Gujarat, Mohan Prakash, had been asked to prepare a report on the matter “at the earliest”.
Lokmat is widely circulated and wields considerable influence in Maharashtra. Sources said it would not be easy for the Congress to punish Darda.
Ramdev, who was present at the Ahmedabad event, was quoted by PTI as saying: “Everybody is asking me about corruption in Gujarat. But I don’t find anything of this sort. Modi is not doing anything wrong.”
Stung by those remarks, Hazare associate Sanjay Singh dubbed Modi a “murderer of humanity” and claimed that Ramdev owed Team Anna an explanation why he had shared a platform with Modi.
Siddiqui hits back
Siddiqui today accused the Samajwadis of “shooting the messenger”. He told PTI that by projecting him as “pro-Modi”, the party was “trying to win back Muslim support because, having come to power, the government has done nothing for them”.
He questioned his summary dismissal, arguing he had asked Modi questions that nobody else had.
“People are scared to look him (Modi) in the eye but I asked tough questions. So there is no question that I had favoured anybody,” Siddiqui said.
Samajwadi leaders such as Azam Khan have accused Siddiqui of “legitimising” Modi’s politics by carrying his interview.
As Modi sets off ripples of disquiet in other parties, the BJP has kept silent. The lone exception was spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain’s comment yesterday questioning the Samajwadi action against Siddiqui.
But even Hussain’s remark came only in response to a media query.