AHMEDABAD: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday crossed swords over Sardar Patel as they shared dais here at an event on the first home minister.
Modi made a veiled attack on Jawaharlal Nehru as he said the country’s “fate” and “face” would have been different if Patel had been the first Prime Minister.
Singh immediately hit back by questioning Modi’s claim over Patel’s legacy, saying the late leader was secular and liberal to the core, having respect for those with different ideology.
Modi, who spoke first at the function to inaugurate a museum in memory of Patel, said, “every Indian regrets that he (Patel) did not become the first Prime Minister. Had he been the first Prime Minister, the country’s fate would have been different, its face would have been different.”
The comments could be seen as an attack on Nehru. Modi credited the first Home Minister with uniting the country after Independence and said the same unity and integrity was under threat from terrorism and Maoism at present.
Responding to Modi’s barbs, Singh appeared to question the Gujarat Chief Minister’s claim on Patel’s legacy as he underlined that he was a Congressman and secular.
“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,” Singh said.
The Prime Minister said it was responsibility of everyone to appropriately make aware the people of the country, particularly the youth, about Patel’s contributions.
“(Mahatma) Gandhi, (Jawaharlal) Nehru and Sardar Patel and Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad had a strong faith in the country’s unity. They had secular and liberal approach, sympathetic towards the poor. They were tolerant and respected different ideologies,” he said here.
“All those present here will agree that those were such ideals which are lacking in the country today,” he said.
Talking about the relationship between Nehru and Patel, Singh said there has been a mention a number of times about their differences. “However, the two leaders agreed on majority of issues and both agreed with each other’s views.”
Hailing Patel, Singh said the first home minister had brought together 500 provinces to build India.
Invoking Patel, Modi said the first home minister was instrumental in uniting the country after Independence.
“That unity and integrity of the country today is under threat from all fronts, be it terrorism or Maoism,” he said, adding Singh himself had said that Maoism is a great threat to the country.
Referring to those who have resorted to terrorism and Maoism, Modi said they were causing the biggest harm to their own communities and appealed to the “misguided” youth to shun violence and return to the mainstream for the country’s development.
Citing the example of Punjab, he asserted that those resorting to violence would not succeed in the country of Mahatma Gandhi and Patel.
“I want to tell the misguided youth who resort to bombs and guns that they cannot succeed in the land of Gandhi and Sardar (Patel). They cause harm to the country. But the biggest harm is caused to their own communities,” he said.