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Jaitley fires ‘sinking ship’ salvo

New Delhi, March 17: BJP leader Arun Jaitley today compared the Congress to a “sinking ship”, alleging that senior leaders had begun deserting the party by refusing to contest the Lok Sabha polls.

Jaitley’s statement, titled “If things go wrong”, comes a day after Rahul Gandhi attacked Narendra Modi over his alleged complicity in the 2002 pogrom in an interview to PTI.

Jaitley, who will make his Lok Sabha election debut from Amritsar, provided a list of flaws that he claimed had beset the Congress.

“Even its leadership is proving to be unacceptable. It lacks the charisma and the appeal which are required today. If things can go wrong, they surely will go wrong,” he said.

Predicting a Congress “collapse” in the polls, Jaitley claimed a “blame game” was about to start in the party because senior leaders were either refusing tickets or feigning poor health to avoid contesting.

“Some look good only when the going is good. If the going is tough, they collapse. That appears to be the UPA and the Rahul Gandhi story,” he said.

Jaitley referred to the Congress vice-president’s claim in the PTI interview that the opinion polls were wrong and that the Congress would improve on its 2009 showing.

“If this is sheer bravado in order to lift the sinking morale of the Congressman, it is understandable. However, if he genuinely believes this to be true, then surely he is completely cut off from reality,” Jaitley said.

He claimed that the Congress’s efforts to create an agenda out of “well-meaning concepts such as empowerment, putting systems in place, etc,” were not working because “abstract slogans… are difficult to comprehend”.

Jaitley said the Congress’s move to play the Telangana card in Andhra Pradesh had not clicked because “it has simply become a liability for its candidates in Seemandhra” while in Telangana, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti had turned its back on the party.

He claimed that the BJP, on the other hand, could “walk into both the regions with our heads held high” because it had “played with a straight bat”, fulfilled its “commitment” to a Telangana state and “got” an additional economic package for Seemandhra from the Centre.

The voters, Jaitley stressed, were worried about price rise, the economy and corruption and sought a leadership that was “decisive and inspirational”.

“The Congress and UPA are failing to set the agenda. They are at best responding to the agenda set by their opponents,” Jaitley claimed.