Rajkot/Patna: Taunted by Congress that Rahul Gandhi had a national stature while he was a state leader, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Monday took a swipe at the party, saying the young leader was an "international leader" who can also contest elections in Italy.

Raking up the issue of foreign origin of Congress President Sonia Gandhi again, the BJP stalwart, who spent his 62nd birthday on Monday continuing his month-long campaign in poll-bound Gujarat, also said he was proud to be a regional leader of the state.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has steadfastly opposed making Modi a prime ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha elections, also greeted his Gujarat counterpart and wished him a long life. The forthcoming Assembly polls is expected to be a new arena for a Modi-Nitish faceoff.      

"Recently a Congress leader made a statement that Rahul Gandhi is a national leader of Congress and I am a regional leader. I am happy to be a leader of Gujarat but I do not agree to consider Rahul as national leader," Modi said, addressing Swami Vivekananda Youth Convention in Rajkot.

"I am proud to be a regional leader of Gujarat. Rahul is not a national leader but an international leader and he can contest elections in India as well as in Italy," Modi said, once again targeting the Gandhi family over the foreign origin of Rahul's mother.

Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi had last week made the comment when he was asked whether the forthcoming election in Gujarat will be a "Modi Vs Rahul" battle. He had said comparison cannot be made as Rahul is Congress's national leader while Modi is regional leader of Gujarat.

Modi a regional leader: Digvijay

Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh also on Sunday described Modi as a regional leader and Rahul a national one. Modi's birthday was celebrated by the BJP in Bihar with a
state minister from the party cutting a cake at its office in Patna.     

Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Minister Giriraj Singh cut a 62-kg cake during the occasion celebrated under the banner of the Narendra Modi Fans Association (NMFA). Singh has publicly backed Modi's candidature as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.

Alleging that the UPA government is deceiving people, Modi criticised the Manmohan Singh government for not fulfilling promises made in Congress election manifesto in 2004.

"In 2004, Congress in its manifesto had promised to give job to one crore youths but according to a report issued by the Government of India, Gujarat is the leader in giving jobs with 72 per cent of share," Modi said addressing a large gathering of youths.

"I want to ask a question to UPA government and its Prime Minister that if you are not able to fulfil your promises then why do you make them...only to deceive people?" he asked.

Modi again slammed the UPA over FDI in retail in India and said the government's policy would prove fatal for Indian retailers.

"The UPA's policy of foreign trading (FDI in retail) in India would prove to be fatal and Gujarat has opposed the policy to ensure the security of retailers in the state," he said.

He also condemned the Prime Minister's "silence and soft approach" to national issues and said, "In the last eight years, Singh has held his head high only twice, first time while signing the nuclear treaty with the US and second time giving permission to foreign trading in India, and both the times he worked for the benefits of foreign governments."

On his birthday on Monday, Modi also made several announcements including giving taluka status to Vinchhiya town of Jamnagar district and increasing age restriction from 25 to 28 and 28 to 30 for recruitment in state government offices. Olympics medallist Gagan Narang, cricketers Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Jaydev Shah and BCCI vice president Niranjan Shah were among those present at the youth convention.



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