Kolkata, April 19 (IANS) BJP star Narendra Modi cannot be called more mature than Rahul Gandhi just because he is older, said CPI-M politburo member Biman Bose who iterated that the projection of a prime ministerial candidate during elections was not relevant in the coalition era.
In a strong attack on Modi, Bose, the 73-year old chairman of West Bengal's main opposition Left Front and state secretary of the CPI-M, criticised him for being "unrepentant" about the 2002 Gujarat riots during his chief ministerial tenure.
"Modi is unrepentant. Everybody should repent for their misdeeds but he didn't. I had been to Ahmedabad after the Godhra riots and seen the hardships of the riot victims. The harrowing life they were leading," Bose told IANS in an exclusive interview at the Communist Party of India-Marxist state headquarters "Muzaffar Ahmed Bhavan".
Initially reluctant to comment when asked to draw a comparison between Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and Modi as prospective prime ministers, Bose said that age cannot be the sole determinant in judging the maturity of a political leader.
"I don't think Rahul Gandhi is still immature or Narendra Modi is a mature leader. Maturity or immaturity cannot be judged on age," Bose said and added that William Pitt the Younger had become the British prime minister in 1783 when he was only 24.
"...So nobody should be judged on the basis of age."
Modi is now 63, 20 years older than Gandhi.
Asked whether he would prefer Gandhi to Modi as prime minister, Bose said: "No. How can I answer this question? Because I can't cite any example of Rahul's performance."
Ridiculing the projection of prime ministerial candidates during poll campaigns, Bose said at a time when coalition politics has become the order of the day in India, "how can a single party project any candidate for the post of prime minister?
"Both the UPA (the Congress led United Progressive Alliance which is now in power) and the NDA (the BJP led National Democratic Alliance which is the main challenger) are coalitions. So how can one man from a party be projected as the PM candidate? I don't find a reason behind this."
Bose said the Left's main campaign was centred on ousting the Congress-led UPA, preventing the BJP from coming to power and defeating the Trinamool, which is subverting democracy in the state.
Asked whether his party or the left would support the Congress to form a government if it was the only way to prevent the BJP from coming to power, Bose replied: "As I have said, our fight is also against the Congress. And how can I comment unless such a situation arrives?
Bose said the Left parties had not tried to cobble up any pre-poll Third Front, as was projected by the media. He said the nation would have to wait for the post-poll scenario.
"We wanted to have a coordination of different political parties who are opposed to the Congress and the BJP. Initially we got support of 14 parties. The talk was to create a coordination to fight the Congress and the BJP and free the country from communal violence.
"Later there was a nine-party meeting in Delhi where the slogan was given for an anti-Congress and anti-BJP government. But the meeting did not have any agenda to form a front. Its aim was to establish a close relation between these non-Congress non-BJP parties".
"But the media tried to project the meetings as efforts to create a third front.
Bose admitted setbacks in the Leftist plans, saying: "We could not think then that the Telugu Desam will forge close relations with the BJP; it was not clear at that time."
However, he refused to blame "any party".
"Nobody talked about creating a pre-poll alliance... We will have to wait for the post-poll scenario."
(Anurag Dey can be contacted at email@example.com while Sirshendu Panth can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org)