Talking to the media, Shinde said that the Congress was a very big party and had been in existence for more than a century.

"Narendra Modi is no challenge for the Congress. This is my and my party's view,” he said.

Shinde refused to comment on Chidambaram's remarks but emphasised that the Congress does not see a challenge from Modi. Shinde said people had given mandate to the Congress and its partners, first in 2004 and then in 2009.

"People gave us a mandate. We are in power for the past 10 years," he said.

Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Sunday acknowledged that the Congress party considers BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as a "challenger."

"As a political party, we acknowledge that he (Modi) is a challenger. We cannot ignore him. He is a candidate fielded by the principal Opposition party. We have to take note of him," he said during an interaction at 'ThinkFest' event currently on in Goa.

The minister, however, said that as an individual he is concerned about his (Modi's) ideology, philosophy and the kind of language he has been using in public rallies.

"So far he (Modi) is extremely opaque. So far he has not spoken on any of the major issues. He has just made election promises," Chidambaram said.

He said the rank and file of Congress party feel that Rahul Gandhi should be leader of the party and leader of government, if it is voted to power in the forthcoming general polls.

"Rank and file seems to think that if party is voted to power, Rahul Gandhi should be the leader of the party and leader of the government," he stated.

"As far as my personal opinion is concerned, I feel that the time has come to hand over the torch to the younger generation," Chidambaram stressed.

"There are enough young men and women in the country who can take part in the government and provide good governance," he said.

The minister noted that Rahul Gandhi has been addressing various public rallies. "But if I was advising him (Rahul), I would have advised him to spell out his views on various major issues (in the rallies)," he said.

When questioned why Congress leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have not been commenting on major issues, the Finance Minister said, "PM does address audience and addresses press conferences, although it is not as much as I expect him to do."

"You can agree or disagree with what he speaks but certainly he speaks," Chidambaram said.


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