Escalating the war of words over Narendra Modi's background as a chaiwalla, the Congress on Saturday said the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, who often flaunts his past to connect with voters, was never a tea vendor.
Senior leader and Congress President Sonia Gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel also termed Modi's much-hyped campaign chai pe charcha (discussions over tea) as a poll gimmick.
"This chai pe charcha is a naatak (gimmick) for the elections. Tea seller associations have told us that he was never a tea vendor but he was a canteen contractor," Patel said without directly naming Modi.
He was speaking at a rally in Ahmedabad where noted civil rights activist Lalji Desai, along with hundreds of his followers, joined the Congress.
Accusing Modi of trying to appropriate the legacy of Sardar Patel, the Congress leader said, "By making the tallest statue of Patel, he wants to make a ladder for the PM's chair".
Patel also took potshots at Modi's Gujarat model of development.
"This cannot be Gujarat's model. Gujarat's model is based on Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel's ideology. Some people accidentally got power and then forgot the ideology of great leaders like Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Ambedkar. But when the election comes, they begin chanting their (leaders') names. He suddenly transforms himself into a tea vendor or a Ram bhakt only when the elections are coming," Patel said.
Taking a dig at Modi's claims of development, Patel said Gujarat was lagging behind in social sectors.
"Gujarat is lagging behind in health, education and other social sectors. As per his propaganda, Gujarat is number one, but from the bottom. Gujarat is on 28th rank as far as primary education is concerned," he said.
He also appealed to all marginalised communities to unite and raise their issues.
"This will strengthen the Congress and also those on the margins, who have been deprived of their rights under BJP’s rule," Patel said.