New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh exchange greetings during the tribute paying ceremony for the martyrs of 2001 Parliament attack on its 16th anniversary, at Parliament House in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI Photo by Vijay Verma (PTI12_13_2017_000036B)
The election campaign in Gujarat saw many lows in tone and substance, but the charge made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that a conspiracy was hatched by Pakistan to defeat the BJP in the state and that former prime minister Manmohan Singh, a former vice-president, a former army chief and many distinguished Indian diplomats are part of the conspiracy marks a particularly low point. Modi said that a 'secret' meeting was held at former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar's home, in which the Indian leaders and other dignitaries, including a visiting former Pakistani minister and the Pakistan high commissioner, participated and plotted against his party. He also charged that a former Pakistani army official tweeted in support of Ahmed Patel as the next Gujarat chief minister. These are serious charges, coming from the prime minister. But some of those who participated in the meeting, including Manmohan Singh, have said that Gujarat election was not discussed by any participant. It is unfortunate that the prime minister made the charges without giving any evidence to support his claim.
The prime minister's office is the highest political office in the country and high prestige attaches to it. So, an incumbent prime minister has to be careful with his claims and statements. Modi is known for his rhetoric. He has used it widely and effectively in past election campaigns and some it has been derogatory. A lot of this was before he became prime minister. He should know that his office demands greater responsibility and he should be careful with his words. In his meetings in Gujarat, Modi did not talk much about the claimed development of the state and the achievements of his party in office, but only about how bad others, including past governments at the Centre and in the state, were. As with every election campaign in the past, he presented himself as a victim and appealed to Gujarati pride. But this time, perhaps, he has gone too far. Alleging a Pakistani conspiracy against him and the BJP, with Manmohan Singh being part of it, is a charge too wild for anyone to believe.
Modi has tried to link Pakistan, the Congress party, a former prime minister and others
in a conspiratorial chain. There is a Muslim theme also running through it. When he conjures up this "anti-national alliance" and uses it in the election campaign, he is being unfair to the country's main opposition party, his predecessor in office and many others who have impeccable records of service to the country. Manmohan Singh has rightly called for an apology, but Modi will not do so. Modi has not only lowered the dignity of the prime minister's office, he has also exposed himself.