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Mistry cries ‘disadvantage’

New Delhi, April 11: The man taking on Narendra Modi from Vadodara has said that the Congress is at a “disadvantage” while competing with the BJP.

Appearing on ABP TV’s Ghoshna Patra programme, AICC general secretary Madhusudan Mistry claimed: “The Modi-led BJP has perfected the art of danga karao, power mein aao (engineer riots and come to power).”

Mistry, who looks after Congress affairs in Uttar Pradesh, conceded that the Muzaffarnagar riots had vitiated the political situation in the western part of the state that went to polls yesterday. “The BJP may have an edge due to polarisation. But is this the way to participate in democratic polity?”

Mistry, 69, said he had urged the Vadodara district electoral officer to reject Modi’s nomination as the BJP’s Prime Minister candidate had not provided details of his wife Jasodaben’s assets and liabilities.

He said he had also pointed out during scrutiny of the papers that Modi had not given her PAN card and bank account details. But the officer said that according to Election Commission guidelines, the details were was not required.

Facing a volley of questions, Mistry said he was “itching” to take on Modi. “I always believed that you need humanity, dharma nirpekshta (secularism) to be Prime Minister. You can’t be communal to sit in the top chair.”

Without mincing words, he said if Modi became Prime Minister, it would be bad for the country. “Modi is a manipulator, anti-poor, anti-tribal, anti-Muslim and anti-working classes. Gujarat was never like this.”

Mistry, who claims he does not believe in rituals, was seen sporting a rudraksh. “My belief is personal to me, but nowadays a series of allegations are being levelled against me. I am being described as a former RSS, BJP worker, Maoist and a Christian. It is all untrue.”

According to him, when rebel BJP leader Shankar Sinh Vaghela left the BJP and founded his Rashtriya Janata Party in 1996, he was made its Gujarat chief. A year later, it merged with the Congress.

Before joining politics, Mistry worked as a peon, clerk and a colour-mixer, earning Rs 75 a month. But he continued his studies and completed his Master’s in geography from Vadodara. Then he won a scholarship for a diploma in development studies at Oxford. He went to Ruskin College for a year and gained entry into the big league in social work.

Mistry repeatedly challenged questions on a Modi wave. “On what basis are you saying this? Every constituency has certain equations. If you put up candidate A, the people react in a certain way and (if you) put up candidate B, the equation changes. What mahaul (anti-Congress mood) you are talking about will affect only some floating votes and nothing more. We will form United Progressive Alliance-III.”

He said he and a team of 55 apolitical professionals had visited various constituencies to select candidates. “We did three verifications, taking variables such as caste, constituency profiles and other factors. Our assessment is Congress will do well in the Lok Sabha polls.”

But he declined to speculate on the party’s tally in the 16th Lok Sabha.

Mistry said the Nehruvian concept of secularism was coming under strain as non-Congress parties were raising emotive issues relating to caste, sub-caste and religion. “We need to introspect on how to deal with situations that put Congress at a disadvantage.”

He wondered why the BJP had objected to Sonia Gandhi meeting Imam Abdullah Bukhari of the Delhi Jama Masjid while seeking support for itself from Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

“There are many issues that need deliberation. How is it that Ahmedabad elected a Muslim MP 30 years ago but for the past 15 years, not a single Muslim has made it to the Lok Sabha from the state?” he asked.