Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi took potshots at each other's parties during the inauguration of the Sardar Patel Museum in Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
"The country's fate would have been different had Sardar Patel been the first
prime minister," Modi said, almost implying that Mahatma Gandhi's choice of Jawaharlal Nehru for the post was flawed.
Singh later appeared to answer him back, saying: "Sardar Patel was committed to the principle of secularism and was a Congressman till his death."
Modi even gave himself a pat on the back stating that during his term as chief minister Gujarat won 90 awards for good governance from the central government.
VIDEO: Sardar Patel should have been our first PM, says Modi
While lauding Sardar Patel's role as the first Union home minister in uniting the country after independence, Modi said, "That unity and integrity is today under threat from all fronts — be it terrorism or Maoism."
This remark drew heckles from some in the audience, a majority of them Congress workers and supporters.
Incidentally, Sardar Patel Memorial Trust is headed by Union minister Dinsha Patel, who also organised the event.
Singh, in turn, said Sardar Patel was the "proud son of India and Gujarat" and that the latter had "always dreamt of a united India with a secular outlook".
"It is an honour for me to be a part of the Indian National Congress of which Sardar Patel was a lifetime member," said the prime minister.
Taking another swipe at the BJP leader's earlier quip, Singh said: "Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad taught us to respect all people even if their ideologies were different. Today there is dearth of these thoughts and I believe everyone present on this dais will do a self-assessment about it."
VIDEO: Sardar Patel was secular and integral part of Congress, says PM
Alluding to the Gujarat chief minister's remarks, Dinsha Patel said: "Some people only talk, while some only work. Sardar Patel was one such leader, who always worked without talking."
After the event, Modi tweeted that the Prime Minister had turned down his request to give time for discussing key issues of Gujarat. "Unfortunately, the PM refused to give time to discuss Gujarat's key issues, but preferred to visit Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan, the state Congress office."
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