Varun Gandhi on Wednesday gave a new twist to the Prime Ministerial candidate race in BJP, comparing party president Rajnath Singh to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and saying he has the ability to bring together people of different religions and castes.

“His (Vajpayee’s) thoughts were so great that every child in the country remembers his rule. I can say with full confidence that if there is any individual in the country who has that ability to bring together people of different religions and castes, then it is our honourable Rajnath Singh,” he said speaking at a public meeting in the presence of the BJP chief.

“There are no two views on it... there is a reflection of Atalji in Rajnath Singhji,” Mr. Gandhi said while addressing a party rally in Devsara Mandi in the Aonla Lok Sabha constituency represented by his mother Maneka Gandhi.

Heaping further praise on Mr. Singh, Mr. Gandhi said: “If there is any one person who can make India, it is Rajnath Singh.

Even after being in politics for 40 years, there has not been a blemish on him.”

Mr. Gandhi’s words in support of Mr. Singh, who elevated him to the post of General Secretary and included him in his new team of office—bearers, came at a time when there is a growing chorus within BJP for making Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha elections.

But Mr. Modi’s detractors in BJP and allies like JD(U) insist he is a divisive figure due to the 2002 post-Godhra riots’ taint on him.

Asked about Mr. Gandhi’s comments, BJP Vice-President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “Vajpayee is an inspiration for all of us. We have moved ahead in life with his inspiration.”

A senior BJP leader, however, was not impressed with Mr. Gandhi’s comparison of Mr. Singh with Mr. Vajpayee. “He had compared Singh’s predecessor Nitin Gadkari and senior leader Sushma Swaraj too with Vajpayee at different public meetings in the past,” the leader said. -- PTI