On a momentous occasion,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi shared the stage at Ahmedabad on Tuesday evening at a function marking the inauguration of a museum dedicated to Sardar Vallabbhai Patel.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said that Sardar Patel had the credentials to lead India post Independence and that he,rather than Jawaharlal Nehru,should have become the country’s first Prime Minister.
Speaking at length on Patel’s ideology and policies,he said India would have had a very different fate if he had become the first PM.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,who took to the stage after Modi,emphatically stated that the first Home Minister of India and Nehru had a relationship based on respect and trust. He quoted the iconic leader from Gujarat,saying Patel himself had said it was his good fortune to have advised Nehru on matters of administration and this would not have been possible if there was no trust between the two men.
Emphasising that Sardar Patel was in pricinple a secular man,he said at this juncture,it was paramount for every leader and social worker to remind themselves the high ideals of secularism,tolerance and compassion for every citizen on which the modern nation of India was founded.
“Sardar Patel was secular to the core. He had a deep faith in the integrity of India. He believed that the whole country was a village and people of all communities here were his relatives and friends,” he said at the function.
Modi and Manmohan appeared briefly together,exchanging words and laughs,as the two posed side by side for photographers.
Congress wasted no time after the inauguration function in accusing Narendra Modi and BJP of trying to “hijack” Sardar Patel’s legacy,questioning whether BJP or “Swayamsevak Modi” endorses Patel’s view that the “communal poison of RSS” killed Mahatma Gandhi.
Union Minister Salman Khurshid also took a dig at Modi over his remarks that Patel should have been the first Prime Minister of India.
“Modi is too preoccupied with the thought as to who should be or should not be the Prime Minister. May be he can give us a list of those he wanted to be the PM,” Khurshid said reminding the BJP leader that it was Patel who had banned RSS.
In another reaction,Union Minister Manish Tewari said,For the last few months,BJP has been trying to usurp the legacy of Sardar Patel. History is witness to the fact that those who do not have any history of legacy try to appropriate the same of others. My advice to the Gujarat Chief Minister,who is the Prime Ministerial candidate of the BJP and a RSS Swayamsevak,is that he should study what the legacy actually is that he is trying to appropriate. On September 9,1948,Patel,the then Home Minister of the country had written to RSS founder M S Golwalkar in which the former had said that as a final result of communal poison,the country had to suffer the sacrifice of life by Mahatma Gandhi. Patel referred to communal poison spread by RSS that Golwalkar headed. Does Swayamsevak Modi agree with Patel or endorses his views RSS? Whose legacy they crave”? he said.
At the AICC briefing,party spokespperson P C Chacko said Patel was one of the tallest Congress leaders during the freedom movement and that he “cannot be hijacked by the BJP. If they think that they can hijack him through some propaganda or by erecting some statues,they will miserably fail. One should remember that it was the same Patel who had banned the RSS.”
BJP has often accused Congress of ignoring Patel’s legacy and promoting the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Modi,who has often criticised UPA for its “weak response” to terrorism and handling of Pakistan,had also been making a big issue of his proposed plan to construct the longest statue of Patel in Gujarat by collecting iron pieces from farmers across India.
Defending the Prime Minister’s visit to Ahmedabad to inaugurate a museum dedicated to Sardar Patel Congress spokesperson Chacko said the PM had decided to go there there as Congress respects the ideals and legacy Patel.