Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's criticism that Goa's liberation was delayed due to Jawaharlal Nehru was a 'desperate attempt to distort history' and asserted that India's first PM intervened at the right time to free Goa.
In an interview with PTI, Chidambaram also stressed that no Congress MLA elected in the upcoming assembly polls can be poached by the Bharatiya Janata Party in Goa this time, saying 'our house is well-guarded' and though the 'thief' is still out there, the people 'will teach him a lesson'.
He said that with every passing day, it is becoming clearer to the voters that they have to choose between the BJP or the Congress and 'small parties' such as the Aam Aadmi Party and the Trinamool Congress are 'splitting' the non-BJP votes.
Chidambaram also said that announcing a chief ministerial candidate is 'not a factor' in this election.
Asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah's recent criticism that Goa's liberation was delayed because of Nehru, he said this is another 'desperate attempt to distort and re-write history'.
"Mr Modi and Mr Shah do not know the history of the world post World War II. They do not know the history of post-Independence India, especially the nascent years 1947-1960. They do not know how deftly Jawaharlal Nehru steered India to a position where India became a champion of peace and the acknowledged leader of the Non-Aligned Movement," Chidambaram said.
Nehru intervened at the right time to liberate Goa and that is why not a single voice was raised against the military action, he said.
And Nehru followed up the liberation by offering the Goan people an opinion poll to decide their future, he said.
"Thanks to Nehru and the opinion poll, Goa today is what it is -- an independent state. Whatever Mr Modi and Mr Shah may say, and however history is sought to be distorted, the people of Goa will always remember the great contribution of Nehru," Chidambaram asserted.
Addressing an election rally in Goa on Thursday, Modi said if Nehru wanted, Goa could have been liberated 'within hours' in 1947 when India attained independence, but it took 15 years for the state to be freed from Portuguese rule.
Shah had also made similar charges recently.
Goa, liberated from Portuguese rule on December 19, 1961, was a part of the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu till May 30, 1987, when it was carved out as a separate state.
Asked if the possibility of a repeat of what happened in the current assembly in terms of Congress MLAs switching loyalties has been ruled out and party is now 'poaching-proof', Chidambaram said there is absolutely no question that any Congress MLA can be poached by the BJP this time.
"Our house is well-guarded. We know the 'thief' is still out there, but the people of Goa will teach him a lesson this time. Our appeal to the people of Goa is to give the Congress-GFP a clear mandate with a simple majority or more," he said.
Asked about the multi-cornered contest in Goa and if division of votes among Opposition parties could be a factor in the polls, Chidambaram said, "Goa's constituencies are small with an average of 27,000 voters in each constituency. In most constituencies the contest is between the Congress and BJP."
With every passing day, it is becoming clearer to the voters that they have to choose between the BJP, to continue their rule, or the Congress, to bring about a change, he said.
"I think more and more people are seeking a change after 10 years of BJP's misrule. Therefore, on balance, I think the situation is favourable to the Congress," he said.
The 'small parties' -- AAP and TMC -- are splitting the non-BJP votes, Chidambaram said, adding that nearly all of their candidates are defectors from other parties who were not given tickets by their respective parties.
"People know that either AAP or TMC cannot form a government to replace the BJP. We are reminding the voters of this simple truth and asking them to vote for the Congress to replace the BJP government," he said.
Hitting out at the BJP over its poll manifesto in which it has promised three free cooking gas cylinders and no increase in state duties for three years on petrol and diesel, Chidambaram said the BJP's promises are a 'cruel joke upon the voters'.
"The BJP has been in power for 10 years. Despite the cry of the people, they did not reduce the prices of petrol and diesel. And now they have the gall to promise they will not raise the taxes for three years. Please note that they have not promised to reduce the taxes," the former finance minister said.
As far as gas cylinders, why did they not give free cylinders all these months when the price of a cylinder touched Rs 1,000, Chidambaram asked.
He alleged that the BJP is 'fooling' the people of Goa and underlined that the Congress has promised that the price of petrol and diesel will be capped at Rs 80 per litre.
On his statement that party candidates will take a call on whether to announce a chief ministerial candidate before polls and if not declaring a CM face could hurt the Congress' chances in the elections, Chidambaram said, "The candidates are busy in their constituencies. We think that announcing a CM candidate is not a factor in this election."
Taking a dig at AAP, he said few people can even recall the 'CM name' announced by that party.
AAP has announced Amit Palekar as its CM face.
On whether the Congress would be open to a post-poll alliance, he said the Congress is resolutely opposed to the BJP and is making every effort to replace the BJP.
"I am confident the Congress-GFP alliance will succeed in the effort. If, post poll, other parties resolutely opposed to the BJP offer to support our effort, we shall certainly talk to them," he said.
Assembly polls for all 40 seats in Goa will be held on February 14.