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New Delhi: Law Minister Salman Khurshid was today at the centre of a storm over his reported remarks that Congress was "directionless", a statement that gave ammunition to the opposition to attack the party and the government forcing the minister do some damage control.
There was discomfiture in the party over his remarks and he was asked to issue a clarification. He did so immediately before he left for Bangalore saying the remarks were "misunderstood, misinterpreted and put in a negative light."
Though he denied having said that the party was directionless, the minister did not contradict the report in a daily that quoted him as saying that the party had only seen "cameos" of Rahul Gandhi's thoughts and ideas and that in UPA II, governance and politics have all got intermingled.
Khurshid, who was to address the media in Bangalore in the company of Home Minister P Chidambaram on UPA-II government's performance, talked to journalists in Delhi accusing the media of not understanding or willing to understand the import of what he had 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.
He said he only wanted the new and young leadership of the party, an euphemism for Rahul, to prepare itself to take new challenges and that should be taken in positive light.
Later in Bangalore, Khurshid said Rahul Gandhi was a big leader and he was already in politics.
The opposition latched on to Khurshid's reported remarks in the newspaper and refused to buy his clarification.
Main opposition BJP and Samajwadi Party, which supports the government from outside, targetted Congress questioning the leadership of both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
BJP Chief Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said "as the leader of the future, he (Gandhi) has no clear coherent thinking, it is being confirmed by a senior government minister, then I can only say good luck to Congress."
He claimed 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 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 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.
However, after Khurshid's clarification, Congress suggested the controversy over Khurshid's remarks is now over.
"Salman Khurshid has already clarified his statements. So, there is no need of any further comment (from the party)," AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi told PTI.
There is a perception in the party that in the course of a free-wheeling talk, the minister might have have gone overboard.
Party leaders, speaking on the condition of anonymity, however felt the minister may not be attacking Rahul.
A leader said there is no doubt that Rahul Gandhi is the future leader of the party and so talking of his larger role in party and government is not unnatural.