Updated: December 11, 2017 9:44:53 am
SPEAKING in this town of Banaskantha district located on the border, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday cited a “post” by “a former Pakistan army officer” to claim that the neighbouring country was showing undue interest in the Gujarat election. Modi also linked the “neech (lowly)” remark by Mani Shankar Aiyar, who was suspended from the Congress for it, to a meeting held at the latter’s place where Pakistani dignitaries were present.
Speaking at his first election rally on Sunday, a day after the first phase of polling, Modi said in Gujarati, “Pakistan former army director general Arshad Rafiq said that in Gujarat, Ahmed Patel (the political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi) should be made the chief minister. Why is Pakistan’s senior retired army officer exercising his brain in the Gujarat election? A Pakistan delegation meets at Mani Shankar’s house and the next day he disrespects Gujarat’s society, its pachat (backward) society, its poor and Modi. Don’t all these things raise questions and concern? The Congress has to answer.”
On December 6, some Twitter handles followed by RSS and BJP leaders had tweeted alleged posts by “Rafiq” hailing Rahul Gandhi’s elevation as Congress president and saying Patel should be the chief minister of Gujarat.
The next day, on the last day of campaigning for the first phase of Gujarat elections, when Modi was to address a rally in the Limbayat area of Surat, banners had come up in Muslim-dominated areas of the city exhorting the minority community to vote for the Congress “to make Ahmed Patel wazir-e-alam (chief minister)”. The Congress had alleged a BJP hand in the posters, while the BJP had disowned them. Neither the police nor Election Commission officials have been able to find out who put up those banners.
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Speaking about a “secret meeting” including senior Pakistani officials at Aiyar’s house in Delhi, the PM, who apologised to the crowd for his sore throat, said, “You must have read in newspapers, you must have seen on TV, a debate yesterday, that at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house in Delhi, ‘Didn’t he disrespect you (Modi), disrespect Gujarat?’. Pakistan’s High Commissioner, former foreign minister, India’s former vice-president and India’s former prime minister Manmohan Singh all met at Aiyar’s house, held a meeting for three hours, and then the next day, Mani Shankar calls Modi neech. This is a serious and sensitive issue, being a meeting with the Pakistan High Commissioner. Also, what is the reason for such a secret meeting amidst Gujarat elections?”
At his Sanand rally later on Sunday, Modi repeated his claims against Aiyar and of support for Ahmed Patel from across the border, but this time identified “Rafiq” as “a former chief of Pakistan army”. “Does that not create a suspicion in the mind of the nation?” Modi asked the huge audience. “Does it not cause worry for India’s sovereignty?”
In Vadodara, Modi said, “Did you (Aiyar) inform the government of India that during tension between the two countries, Pakistani officers were visiting you? When I was the CM of Gujarat, I used to inform the Manmohan Singh government about any foreign delegation coming to meet me.”
Reacting sharply to Modi’s charges, the Congress’s chief media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said in Ahmedabad, “By making highly irresponsible and false statements, Modi has brought down the dignity of the office of prime minister.”
Asking the BJP to explain its own “Pakistan prem (love for Pakistan)”, Surjewala said, “It is the Modi government that invited Pakistani ISI to inspect the Pathankot Air Base that was attacked by Pakistan-based terrorists.” And it was Modi who had gone to Lahore to attend the wedding of former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s daughter.
Surjewala also spoke about Dhruv Saxena, arrested for a SIM box fraud with Pakistani trail in Madhya Pradesh some time ago, who had claimed links with the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha’s Bhopal district IT Cell. “Why does Amit Shah not break his silence on it?” he asked. The BJP had denied that Saxena was a member.
The Congress went on to speak about the top Jaish militants exchanged for hostages by the BJP government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the time of the Kandahar hijacking. “Don’t Jaish-e-Mohammed leaders, sitting in Pakistan, carry out attacks on India?” Surjewala said.
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