Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (left) and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party, prepare to shake hands during the inauguration ceremony of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Museum in Ahmedabad yesterday.
Ahmedabad: The prime minister and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate were yesterday locked in an ideological battle over Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, with Narendra Modi wishing the “Iron Man” had been India’s first prime minister and Manmohan Singh underlining that Patel was a Congress leader and secular to the core.
Sharing the stage with the prime minister at a function here, Modi spoke first and said that India would have been beter off if Patel had ruled the country after independence.
“I wish Sardar Patel had become the first prime minister of India,” Modi said at the inaguruation of a museum dedicated to Sardar Patel. “This will remain our regret.”
“If Sardar Patel would have been our first prime minister, then the face and fate (tasveer aur taqdeer) of the country would have been completely different,” Modi said.
Modi’s comments mirrored long-held views of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its affiliates which adore Sardar Patel but have no love for the socialist-minded Jawaharlal Nehru, who ruled India for 17 long years, from August 1947 until his death in May 1964. Sardar Patel died in 1950.
Speaking soon after Modi, the prime minister, the chief guest on the occasion, recalled Patel’s association with the Congress and his love for secular values.
“I am proud and happy about the fact that I belong to a political party to which Sardar Patel was attached,” he said, at a clear dig at Modi.
He went on to point out that Sardar Patel was a “secular man” who always worked to strengthen the Congress.