The people of India would never accept Narendra Modi as their leader since his secular credentials were doubtful, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said here on Sunday.
During an exclusive interaction with The Hindu on the sidelines of the Congress Sandesh Yatra, Mr. Gehlot responded to Union Minister Jairam Ramesh's recent remarks that the Gujarat chief minister could prove to be a challenge for the Congress.
He said Mr. Modi's popularity was like a water bubble and would not sustain for long.
"Narendra Modi is no challenge for the Congress as the people will never accept him. The naked violence of the Gujarat riots will never be forgotten," Mr. Gehlot said.
"Voters are not naïve. Look how they voted the BJP out of power from Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Karnataka," he said.
“Winning state elections on the basis of certain favourable local circumstances and conditions is one thing; but rising up to be a truly national leader requires a lot more,” said the chief minister.
He said Mr. Modi's secular credentials had always been under scanner as the BJP leader had worked to create a rift between Hindus and Muslims.
"Under his leadership, the BJP did not even field a single Muslim candidate in the Gujarat assembly elections,” said Mr. Gehlot.
“Atal Behari Vajpayeeji himself called the Gujarat riots a blot on humanity and admitted that the ‘Raj dharma’ was not followed in Gujarat. The country watched helplessly as people were being burnt alive," said Mr. Gehlot.
“How can the BJP project such a man as their national leader and talk about him being the country's next prime minister?” he wondered.