statesman news service 
NEW DELHI, 14 JUNE: The All India Congress Committee (AICC) today distanced itself from party leader and Union minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh’s comment conceding that the BJP’s Gujarat chief minister, Mr Narendra Modi, posed a “challenge” to the Congress in the coming general elections.   “Modi could be a challenge for the BJP and the NDA but not for the Congress…we do not consider Modi a challenge for us. It is the considered view of the Congress party,” the AICC spokesman, Mr Shakeel Ahmad, told reporters.
To a volley of questions, Mr Ahmad described Mr Ramesh’s remark as “his personal view”. 
Referring to the fallout of the BJP’s recent decision to nominate Mr Modi as its campaign committee chief for the general elections, Mr Ahmad said, “So, the BJP and the NDA themselves face challenge now (due to the Modi factor)… They are challenging each other.”  
Asked whether the Congress had pulled up Mr Ramesh for his remark, Mr Ahmad sought to play it down, saying, “There is no question of pulling him up, defending or supporting him.”
In an interview to news agency PTI, Mr Ramesh, the rural development minister, had dubbed Mr Modi as India’s “first authentic fascist” and had conceded that the BJP leader poses a “challenge” for the Congress party in the coming elections.
Mr Ramesh was perhaps the first Congress leader to speak spoken about Modi as a “challenge” after generally being dismissive about him as just a leader of Gujarat. The Minister, however, had dismissed suggestions that the Congress was afraid of the Gujarat chief minister.
The Congress, however, did not distance itself from Mr Ramesh’s other scathing remarks made against Mr Modi.
Mr Ramesh, known to be a key Congress strategist, had not  only described Mr Modi as “India’s first authentic fascist”, the outspoken minister also called Mr Modi "Bhasmasur"   ~ the demon in Hindu mythology that Lord Shiva is said to  have given the power to destroy anyone, only to have Bhasmasur turn against him.
Taking a swipe at the turmoil within the BJP centred round a face-off between Mr Modi and the BJP stalwart Mr L K Advani, Mr Ramesh purportedly charged: “Modi is Bhasmasur. He will consume the people who have created him. He has consumed his mentor, Mr Advani. He has consumed Togadia, one of his co-conspirator in 2002 (Gujarat riots) and he is nothing but a Bhasmasur."
Meanwhile, a senior Congress leader, Mr Satyavrat Chaturvedi, reportedly criticised Mr Ramesh for describing Mr Modi as a “challenge”, asking him to go to Gujarat and join the BJP in such a case. Asked about Mr Chaturvedi’s comment against Mr Ramesh, the Congress national spokesman again played it down, saying that might be his “personal view”.
Mr Ramesh is not new to controversies. Once, as environment minister, he had criticised the home ministry while in Beijing for stalling Chinese telecom projects because of security apprehensions.
Sometime back, he had kicked up another row, when he said, while highlighting the sanitation situation in the country, that the country needed more toilets than temples.
Cong unsettled, page 2