New Delhi: Setting the stage for a likely national role in the BJP, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi Sunday hit out at the Congress, comparing it to a termite while party leaders stressed on unity, discipline and a clean image for success in the upcoming elections.
Modi, seen by many in the BJP as the party's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, accused the Nehru-Gandhi family of keeping its interests above that of the country and referred to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as a "night watchman" in his loudly-applauded speech at the two-day national council meeting that ended Sunday.
Senior leader L.K. Advani lauded Modi but also showered praise on Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He lavishly praised Sushma Swaraj's speech, virtually comparing her oratorical skills to that of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In his address, party president Rajnath Singh cautioned party leaders against speaking out of turn before TV cameras and emphasised that they should abide by discipline.
In a session on good governance, Modi mainly spoke on national issues as he attacked the Congress and its top leadership repeatedly.
"The Congress just does not have the spirit to take the country forward. Other countries have overtaken us. It has sacrificed interests of the country to that of one family," he said.
Congress leaders reacted sharply saying that Modi will get an answer from people.
Exhorting party workers to strive to unseat the Congress in the next general elections, Modi sought to downplay his own role as a possible prime ministerial candidate.
"Who is the person, who is not does not matter in the BJP," he said, while giving credit for his third straight victory to party workers, Gujarat's people and the party's national leadership.
Training his guns on the Gandhi family, he claimed that the Congress had appointed Sitaram Kesri as party president so that no one emerges as a threat to "the family".
"It appeared that a night watchman had been put in place," Modi said, adding that when the turn came to chose a prime minister after 2004 polls, another "night watchman" was appointed.
Modi claimed that the political future of those who can emerge as threat to the family is finished.
He said that if Pranab Mukherjee had been made prime minister, the country would not have suffered as much. "Had Pranab been successful, what would have happened to the family... Hence the tradition of night-watchman."
"Getting rid of Congress is a patriotic job, the same work that was done to get freedom. The way swaraj (self-governance) came, su-raj (good governance) will also come," Modi asserted and added that "Congress was like a termite.".
Advani, in his concluding remarks, emphasised that the party should not compromise with corruption.
In his written speech, Advani talked of the need to change the "mutual equation" between the BJP and minorities but skipped it in his oral speech. He also said there was need to remedy BJP's recent image as "party with differences".
Sushma Swaraj said the party had lost in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand due to groupism and called upon party workers to take the council's message of "Sushasan sankalp, BJP vikalp (Good governance is the determination, BJP is the alternative)" to each household in the country.
The political resolution attacked UPA over price rise, corruption and misgovernance and said BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was the alternative.
Reacting to Modi's remarks, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla said the kind of language used by the Gujarat chief minister does not behove any leader of national stature.
Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal said that Gujarat chief minister had been attacking Gandhi family for years but people had given a reply in 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha polls and will do so in 2014.
BJP ally Janata Dal-United, which is opposed to projecting Modi as NDA's prime ministerial candidate, said the issue of candidate should be discussed in a meeting of allies.
"Once BJP decides its candidate, it should come to NDA platform," JD-U's chief whip in Rajya Sabha Ali Anwar Ansari told IANS.