‘Sardar Patel did not belong to the officially glamorised party’

Invoking the legacy of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley on Saturday took a dig at the Congress, accusing it of giving short shrift to the “Iron Man.”

“Patel’s contribution to nation building and shaping its current geographical contours has been the greatest. Today [Saturday], Rahul Gandhi is in Bardoli, where Patel led a farmers’ andolan. The Congress has suddenly remembered Patel,” Mr. Jaitley said at a function to mark the collection of iron from Bihar to make a statue of the leader to be erected in Gujarat.

The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s campaign for the construction of the 182-metre iron “Statue of Unity” of the leader in Gujarat entailed contribution of iron from all over the country. The party estimates that 12 trucks of iron was collected from Bihar.

Referring to Patel’s humble background and the relative anonymity in which his family lived, Mr. Jaitley said an artificially created aura surrounded the Gandhi family.

“There is one family whose members have been glamorised by design. Patel did not belong to the officially glamorised party. He pieced together 550 States. On the other hand, you have Kashmir for which Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had taken responsibility,” he said.

Mr. Jaitley said the Congress had no leadership and people were disillusioned with the current leadership. “The country is in a mood for change. Its democracy will be strengthened in the real sense when a backward class person [an allusion to Mr. Modi] becomes the PM.”

He dismissed the third alternative as a “losers’ front.”

“The Janata Dal (United) has been squeezed out in Bihar politics. Losers think if they get together they can win. The third ‘front’ is a failed idea. It has been explored thrice. It does not last over six months. In the current political situation, such experiments are not in the country’s interest,” he said.

The BJP leader identified Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as the States where the BJP had the maximum scope to grow in strength.

In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the United Progressive Alliance got 262 seats with 15.34 crore votes. “Today, you may need 17 crore to achieve that figure. The BJP can easily cross this figure [if it reaches out to the 10 crore population in Bihar]. There will only be one party with a three-figure seat count in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls,” he said.

In Bihar, although the split in the National Democratic Alliance went against the BJP’s wishes, the party stood to gain from it, Mr. Jaitley said.

Ashwani Kumar Choubey, BJP MLA and former Bihar Minister, declared that he would quit his membership of the Vidhan Sabha if the Janata Dal(U) won even one seat in the Lok Sabha elections.

Mr. Modi will address a rally in Muzaffarpur district in Bihar on March 3.