Ahmedabad: In a veiled attack on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister P Chidambaram Wednesday said nobody can claim to be equivalent to the state as such an assertion is detrimental to democracy but admitted the BJP-ruled state is progressing at a "satisfactory" rate.
“In a democracy, no one can say `I am the state`. No individual can become the state. No one voice should be heard. Democracy thrives on plurality of voices, not in one person`s voice," he said on eve of first phase of voting in Gujarat.
"But what I find in Gujarat is...I, me, I alone, I am the state. That is not democracy. What we want is a collective leadership, the leader is first among equals.
"We don`t believe in I am the state theory, which is detrimental to democracy," he told a press conference here.
Chidambaram, however, did not name Modi.
Gujarat is progressing at a "satisfactory" rate, but it needs to be questioned whether this development is reaching every section of the society, he stated.
"Gujarat needs the change of direction, the change that requires not the growth of fewer or small section but of the whole society. No one should be left behind.
"In Gujarat large sections of society are left behind, in particular tribals, women, minorities and Dalits. Also, entire Saurashtra is left behind," he said.
"If growth is skewed, lopsided then that`s not inclusive growth," Chidambaram maintained.
"Claims are being made that Gujarat is among the top ranking states in the country. There are many states which are ahead of Gujarat in terms of human development indicators, in terms of per capita income.
"Gujarat has the capacity to catch up with these states. But that requires a new leadership, a new government which cares for all sections of the society," he said, appealing to voters to give Congress a chance in the state.
Chidambaram rejected Modi`s oft repeated claim that the Centre had been discriminating against Gujarat.
"Let there be no mistakes, and I would say this with full responsibility, that Centre has not discriminated with Gujarat. No state has been discriminated against."
The Finance Minister went on to give figures of financial assistance given to the BJP-ruled state by the Union Government over the years.
To a question on Modi`s claim that the Centre collects highest taxes from Gujarat, Chidambaram said this was not true. Collection from other states is higher than Gujarat. As far as income tax is concerned, Mumbai is the highest contributor.
About Congress not declaring its Chief Ministerial candidate in Gujarat, he said, "Congress has a good set of leaders. But what we want is a collective leadership, the leader is first among equals and there are many leaders who are capable of occupying that post. Elected MLAs, in consultation with the high command, will decide who will be the Chief Minister."