New Delhi: Dubbing Narendra Modi as India`s "first authentic fascist", Union Minister Jairam Ramesh on Thursday conceded that the BJP leader poses a "challenge" for the Congress party in the coming elections.
"He will certainly impose a challenge on us. He represents not just a managerial challenge. But he also represents an ideological challenge," said Ramesh, who has been one of the key Congress strategists.
This is perhaps for the first time that any Congress leader has spoken about Modi as a "challenge" as the party till now was generally dismissive of him, suggesting that his influence was only restricted to Gujarat.
The Minister, however, dismissed suggestions that the Congress was afraid of the Gujarat Chief Minister.
"Why should we be afraid of Modi? Yes he won three elections in Gujarat. No doubt, he was a formidable campaigner," the Minister said when asked whether Modi posed a challenge for the Congress in the 2014 elections.
The Congress leader said that Modi is a "fact of life" as he was elevated by the BJP as chairman of its election board panel.
"We have to be content with that reality.... If BJP wants to commit suicide, why should we stop them," he said.
Taking a dig at developments in BJP, Ramesh described Modi as `Bhasmasur`, a mythological character known for trying to destroy his creator, and said the Gujarat Chief Minister has "consumed" his mentor L K Advani.
Ramesh also compared his party leader Rahul Gandhi and Modi--the two possible Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 elections, saying while Gandhi was trying to create a structure and a system in the country, Modi "is saying he is the system and the structure".
"Modi is Bhasmasur. He will consume the people who have created him. He has consumed his mentor, Mr Advani. He has consumed Togadia, one of his co-conspirator in 2002 and he is nothing but a Bhasmasur," the Minister said.
Bhasmasur was a demon who was granted the power by Lord Shiva to destroy anyone whose head he touched with his hand. When Shiva granted him the power, Bhasmasur attempted to touch the head of the Lord with his hand because he saw his wife Parvati and wanted to possess her.
Ramesh was reacting to a volley of questions about the developments in the BJP after Advani`s resignation from all party posts following the elevation of Modi as the party`s chief campaigner for the next Lok Sabha polls.
"The fundamental difference between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi -- Gandhi is trying to create a structure and a system which are not dependent on individuals. Modi is saying I don`t care about the system, I am the structure. I am the system. Nothing exists other than me. Gandhi has never said that," he said when asked about the difference between the two leaders.
The Minister, however, refused to say that the 2014 elections will be Rahul Gandhi Vs Narendra Modi contest but said it will be the fight between Congress and RSS.
Launching a scathing attack on RSS and its chief Mohan Bhagawat, Ramesh said the Sangh should now register itself a political party.
"It must give up this pretence of being socio-cultural organisation. The manner in which it has manoeuvred Modi in and Advani out and the manner in which Mohan Bhagawat is travelling all over the country, trying to lobby with various people, it is no longer a socio-cultural organisation," he said.
Asked about the continuation of "secular" parties in the BJP and the possibility of some like Trinamool Congress and BJD associating with the Modi-led party, Ramesh alleged that they were "opportunists."
He alleged that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee did a "deal with BJP" to win the Howrah Lok Sabha Seat recently.
"Mamata can do whatever. Mamata did a deal with Howrah seat. Had BJP put up a candidate in Howrah, Mamata would have lost. K D Singh (of Trinamool Congress) and (BJP Chief) Rajnath Singh did a deal. There was a deal. Trinamool and `kamal ka phool` (lotus- BJP`s symbol) are two sides of same coin," the Congress leader said.
Taking a dig at the move by Banerjee and BJD leader Naveen Patnaik to form a federal front, Ramesh said the Odisha Chief Minister`s was part of NDA when they were in power.
"These are all opportunists," Ramesh said.