Using Law Minister Salman Khurshid's reported remarks, Opposition today attacked Congress saying this confirms the ruling party and the government are directionless but the minister clarified that his comments were misinterpreted and seen in a negative light.
Amid displeasure in party circles over his comments, Khurshid later said he felt there was no scope for any objection or controversy on what he stated and it should be read in a positive context. Party sources maintained that Khurshid had been asked to clarify his remarks.
"If the media is not understanding or willing to understand the import of what I said, then it is better that these things are discussed within the party forum. I never said that the party is directionless and if I am saying this then I am blaming myself," he said.
Notwithstanding the clarification by Khurshid, his reported statement to a newspaper that people had only seen cameos of Rahul Gandhi's ideas and the root of the problems plaguing Congress was lack of "ideological direction" from the party General Secretary, served as fresh ammunition for the Opposition.
BJP Chief Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "As the leader of the future he (Gandhi) has no clear coherent thinking is being confirmed by a senior government minister, then I can only say good luck to Congress."
He claimed that if a senior UPA minister is confirming that Congress is "directionless" then this is also a comment on the functioning of party chief Sonia Gandhi.
Samajwadi Party, which is supporting the government from outside, took the opportunity to hit out at Rahul Gandhi.
"It is very clear from the very beginning that Rahul may want to become Prime Minister but he is not the leadership material. He does not have the ideological moorings like Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. He does not have ideological focus," SP leader Shahid Siddique said.
Referring to Khurshid's reported remarks on Rahul Gandhi, Siddique said Khurshid has "unwittingly spoken the truth, which Congress leaders have been whispering to each other privately. He has come out to say it openly. I welcome it."
BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, "It is not surprising that a truth which has been a matter of discussion among the people has been articulated by a Congress minister now."
Attacking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he said, "As for Congress and its government at the Centre, they are going through a crisis of policy and leadership. A reformer Prime Minister has assumed the role of a non-performing Prime Minister."
Ravi Shankar Prasad said that one "important" comment of Khurshid is that economic reforms have come to the halt and political and administrative reforms have slowed down.
"All this only shows that the underachiever Manmohan Singh remark (of Time magazine), which led to a lot of controversy, is a fact. There is nothing for Congress leadership to comment on this drift," Prasad said.
CPI's D Raja said the Prime Minister should realise where the country had come to. "The government stands so helpless before market forces. The government is clueless about how to contain inflation and rising prices. So the government is in a way become a failure."
At the same time, he said this does mean that he should agree to what Time magazine has said or what the "right-wing forces said today".
Khurshid clarified his comments saying, "My urging the new and young leadership of the party to prepare itself to take new challenges should be taken in positive light."
He, however, refused to elaborate, saying "I will not explain anything...If I start explaining myself, I have to end up telling you please try to work towards the creative understanding of good language... because you are unable and unwilling to do that, therefore, I don't think we should have any further discussions on this matter."