Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
Ahemdabad: Locking himself in an ideological battle over Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel with BJP`s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said that the country’s first home minister was a Congress leader and secular to the core.
In a big rebuttal to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s alleged claim to Sardar Patel’s legacy, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh hailed him as a staunch nationalist leader.
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh also acknowledged Sardar Patel`s role in the freedom struggle and laying the foundation of a strong India.
Addressing an august gathering during the inauguration of a renovated Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Museum here, the PM said, “Sardar Patel, who is also known as the Iron Man of India, was a staunch nationalist leader. He played a great role in uniting the country.”
“Sardar Patel`s vision was secular. He had faith in the unity of India. Sardar Patel once said that the village is a microcosm of India, where people of all religions live as friends & relatives. It was leaders like Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and others who led us during freedom struggle and after,” Dr Singh said.
Quoting a Cabinet resolution on Sardar Patel, the Prime Minister said, “A great Indian and an unmatched warrior in the course of freedom, a lover of India. He fixed his goal, a united India, and set about to achieving it with skill and determination."
In a veiled reference to Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi’s alleged claims on Sardar Patel`s legacy, Dr Singh said, "Sardar Patel was a staunch Congressman. He was a secular person and someone who united the whole country"
The PM went on to say that he is “happy to be part of the Congress to which Patel belonged.”
Referring to alleged strained relationship between the country’s first PM JL Nehru and Sardar Patel, Manmohan Singh said, “The two leaders might have had differences but they respected each other and helped in the discharging their duties.”
Sharing the stage with the Prime Minister at a function here, Narendra Modi spoke first and said that India would have been better 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 inauguration 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.