Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fearing “imminent defeat” in Gujarat, is spreading “falsehoods” and canards” and is setting a dangerous precedent by his “insatiable desire” to “tarnish” every Constitutional office, Manmohan Singh said Monday.
In an uncharacteristic attack on Modi, the former Prime Minister asked him to “show the maturity and gravitas expected of the high office he holds” and apologise for his “ill thought transgression” to restore the dignity of the office he occupies.
Singh’s hard-hitting statement was in response to the Prime Minister’s reference at an election rally in Gujarat on Sunday to a “secret meeting” held on December 6 at Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s residence to allege Pakistan’s hand in the Gujarat elections. Former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri and Pakistan High Commissioner to India Sohail Mahmood were among those at the meeting.
The Indian Express had reported Monday that the dinner meeting was attended by several top former diplomats and officials including former vice president Hamid Ansari, former Army Chief Deepak Kapoor, former foreign secretary Salman Haider and senior ex-diplomats and journalists.
The former Prime Minister said he was “deeply pained and anguished” by the “falsehood and canards being spread to score political points in a lost cause by none less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi” and argued no one, including Modi, can “lamely question” his track record of public service to the country over last five decades.
“I reject the innuendoes and falsehoods as I did not discuss Gujarat elections with anyone else at the dinner hosted by Aiyar as alleged by Modi. Nor was the Gujarat issue raised by anyone else present at the dinner. The discussion was confined to India-Pakistan relations,” he said.
Singh reminded the Prime Minister that “he had gone to Pakistan uninvited after the terrorist attacks in Udhampur and Gurdaspur.” He also dared the Prime Minister to “tell the country the reason for inviting the infamous ISI of Pakistan to our strategic Air Base in Pathankot to investigate a terror attack that emanated from Pakistan.”
“Fearing (defeat)…desperation of Prime Minister to hurl every abuse and latch on to every straw is palpable. Sadly and regrettably, Modi is setting a dangerous precedent by his insatiable desire to tarnish every constitutional office, including that of a Former Prime Minister and Army Chief,” Singh said.
Referring to the Prime Minister’s Pakistan visit and invitation to ISI, Singh said the Congress “needs no sermons on ‘nationalism’ from a party and Prime Minister, whose compromised track record on fighting terrorism is well known.”
“My track record of public service to the country over last five decades is known to everyone. No one, including Modi, can lamely question it to gain lost political ground,” he added.
Singh also released the names of those who attended the meeting which included besides Kapoor and Haider, former External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh, diplomats T C A Raghavan, Sharat Sabharwal, K S Bajpai, M K Bhadrakumar, C R Gharekhan, Satinder Lambah and journalists Prem Shankar Jha, Ajay Shukla, Rahul Khushwant Singh. “None of them could be accused of indulging in any anti-national activities.”
“I sincerely hope that Prime Minister will show the maturity and gravitas expected of the high office he holds instead of concentrating his energy solely on erroneously conceived brownie points. I sincerely hope that he will apologise to the Nation for his ill-thought transgression to restore the dignity of the office he occupies,” he added.
Former Union Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said “Singh is absolutely right in demanding an apology for the outrageous allegation made yesterday against the former Vice President and former Prime Minister and other distinguished former civil servants.”
“The BJP’s campaign in Gujarat in the last few days, especially yesterday, has gone beyond bizarre. Should a political party go to any length to win an election? Is winning an election so important that such allegations can be made against a former Prime Minister and a former Vice President?” he asked.
Addressing a press conference at the AICC headquarters, former union minister Anand Sharma said nothing could be more absurd than what the Prime Minister of India has said.
“It is clear that he has done so with the intent to confuse and mislead the people of Gujarat for the second phase of the election, to whip emotions and to polarize. There cannot be any other explanation and there cannot be anything more reprehensible than what he has done,” he said.
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