PM, Modi lock horns over Patel legacy

PM, Modi lock horns over Patel legacy

PM, Modi lock horns over Patel legacy

They sat next to each other, exchanged pleasantries, and even laughed briefly. But when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the man who hopes to dethrone him in the 2014 electoral battle shared the dais at a function to inaugurate a museum at the Sardar Patel Memorial in Ahmedabad, the cordialities were overshadowed by a war of words.

Modi, who as per protocol spoke first, drew first blood when he remarked that the nation rues the fact that Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was not its first prime minister. “Had Sardar been the first prime minister, the image and the fate of this country would have been different,” said Modi.

The daggers were hardly concealed in Modi’s profuse thanking of the prime minister, with whom he was sharing the dais after two years, for the numerous awards Gujarat has received from the Central government during his regime.

At the opening of his speech, Modi took note of the fact that Singh had to visit Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan before arriving at the Sardar Patel Memorial on Tuesday evening.

Lauding Sardar’s role in unifying the country, he raised the issue of internal security, Maoism and terrorism, and in a veiled manner reached out to Muslims. Without naming any community, Modi said bombs and guns would not benefit anyone — not even the communities the youth come from. “On the contrary, it harms the community immensely,” he said.

Modi, who has been blaming Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal for not clearing the bill for 50 per cent reservation for women in civic bodies, also attempted a barb at him. He said Sardar, a councillor at Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, had moved a resolution on women's reservation in 1919 and had got it passed unanimously. Beniwal, too, who too was present on dais.

Much to Modi’s chagrin and embarrassment, Congress MP and Sardar Patel trust Chairman Dinsha Patel, whose speech immediately followed his, corrected Modi on the date, pointing out that Sardar had done so in 1926.

Dinsha made another barb at Modi by opening his statement with: “Some people only talk; others only work. Sardar Patel belonged to the latter category, and he united 562 princely states with the Union of India”.

In a subtle assertion of claim over Sardar, the prime minister in his address expressed happiness over the fact that he shared political affiliations with the same party as Sardar. “He worked all his life to strengthen the Indian National Congress, and was even elected the president of the party in the Karachi session,” said Singh.

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