In unexpected comments, Congress leader Digvijay Singh, a known Narendra Modi baiter, today said the Gujarat CM was moving away from his "fanatic" ideology and that "even a chaiwallah can become the Prime Minister", which were promptly welcomed by BJP as praise for its PM candidate.
Digvijay Singh said that he "welcomes that Modi is gradually distancing from his fanatic ideology and gravitating towards the ideology of Atal Bihari Vajpayee" and "it should be welcomed if Sangh and the BJP...are coming close to the ideology of Congress and (Jawaharlal) Nehru."
He, however, added that "Modi will not be acceptable to people of India" and he would prefer Sushma Swaraj to him "if god forbid BJP comes to power".
Responding to criticism that Congress is fine with the party being in the hands of a family and some special people calling the shots but does not like common workers rising as in the BJP, Digvijay Singh said it was not true.
He said in a democracy "if a shepherd from Kerala can become President so also a tea-vendor (chaiwallah) can become Prime Minister", remarks which were seen as a reference to Modi's humble origins.
BJP leader Smriti Irani latched on to the comments saying "we had not thought that Digvijay Singh will say that even a chaiwallah can become Prime Minister...I am happy that Modi ji is being praised so much by Digvijay Singh ji."
At this, Digvijay Singh said, "Nobody is untouchable in democracy irrespective of the family he is born in, whether it is poor or rich."
The Congress leader at the same time said that Modi is "not a factor" for Congress and that while Vajpayee and Sushma Swaraj can be acceptable "Modi will not be acceptable to people of India" as the country's basic temperament is one that favours communal harmony.
He was speaking at the 'Agenda Aaj Tak 2013; -- a two-day conclave of India Today Group that began here yesterday.
He also rubbished the exit poll results of assembly elections in the five states and refused to accept it as some sort of a semi final for the next Lok Sabha elections.