New Delhi: Hailing his contribution towards unifying India, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said on Wednesday that it was India's misfortune that Sardar Vallabhai Patel was never the Prime Minister of the country.
The country celebrated Sardar Patel's 143rd birth anniversary with much fervour while Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled a statue of the iconic leader which is the tallest in the world. Political mudslinging though was plentiful as well with leaders of both BJP and Congress slamming each other using Sardar Patel as reference. "Had Kashmir been in Sardar Patel's hands instead of Jawaharlal Nehru, its 1/3rd part won't have been with Pakistan," said Chouhan at an event. "India was unfortunate that Sardar Patel was not its PM. What Congress did to him need not be said again."
Chouhan also said that the Congress was guilty of having forgotten Sardar Patel. "Congress never gave due respects to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. It forgot him, who unified India. I congratulate the PM that he unveiled the world's tallest statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel today," he said.
Political rivals have often accused Congress of having sidelined Sardar Patel and given the importance and respect due to him to Nehru. Nehru was the country's first Prime Minister while Patel - the country's first Home Minister - is credited for having ensured merger of 500 princely states with the Union of India shortly after independence from British rule.
The political bickering over the contribution of different political leaders in India's independence, however, continues unabated. At the unveiling of the Statue of Unity, even PM Modi send out a message to political opponents. "During the last four years, our government has set up many memorials of our national heroes, including this sky-high statue of Sardar Patel, his museum in Delhi, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar's Panch Tirth and a memorial dedicated to son of Gujarat's soil, Shyamji Krishna Varma," he said. "But, to my surprise, some people of this country are seeing our movement through the political glasses. We are criticized for praising the contributions of national heroes like Sardar Patel. We are made to feel as if we have committed a serious crime."
PM Modi's remarks were soon met with another set of accusations from Congress president Rahul Gandhi who said that the Centre was guilty of treason because it was smashing institutions set up by Sardar Patel.