The controversy over Narendra Modi's interview to Doordarshan took a new turn on Friday after Congress leader Ahmed Patel described as "baseless and ridiculous" the BJP prime ministerial nominee's remarks that the two were "good friends".
A file photo of Ahmed Patel with Congress president Sonia Gandhi at an election campaign rally in Rajkot. (PTI photo)
"I totally deny any closeness to a man who is set to divide India. I will leave public life if Modi can prove I have gone to his house or office since he became chief minister (of Gujarat)," NDTV quoted Patel as saying.
In an interview to state-run DD News, Modi had referred to Patel, political secretary of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, as a "good friend" who had stopped taking calls.
A day after reports that Modi had said Priyanka Gandhi was "like his daughter" in the same interview, the Gujarat CM's office in Gandhinagar released an unedited version of the video to set the records straight.
Read: I am Rajiv Gandhi’s daughter, says Priyanka in brush-off to Modi
Contrary to reports, the video released by Modi's office showed him only going to the extent of praising Priyanka for trying to ensure the victory of her brother (Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi) and mother (Sonia).
The remarks on Patel and Priyakna did not feature in the interview aired on Sunday. The BJP alleged Modi's remarks were deliberately edited out, while Doordarshan said the editing was part of a routine post-production technical process.
Journalist Barkha Dutt wrote on micro-blogging site Twitter, "True that interviews are edited for time. But in a Narendra Modi interview, comments on Priyanka & Ahmed Patel are NOT the ones to remove!"
On Patel, Modi said in the interview, "Ahmedbhai is among the best friends I have in Congress, but not now... I had a good friendship with him and would have preferred that it had remained so... but he now runs away from me and doesn't take my calls."
Modi added that they had even dined at each other's houses.
Patel reiterated he had not met Modi since he became the CM, except for once after the serial blasts in Ahmedabad in 2008, according to an NDTV report.
"How is a man who doesn't have friends within his own party claiming friendship with arch-rivals?"
"If he can't even invite Advaniji for a meal, how can he invite me?" NDTV quoted Patel as saying.
The BJP leader's interview with Doordarshan had triggered a fresh political storm on Thursday, with finance minister P Chidambaram saying he was not sure whether Priyanka would be happy to consider Modi as a father figure.
Priyanka had also reacted strongly to the reports, saying, "I am Rajiv Gandhi's daughter… My father is a martyr. And in my heart, he can never be compared with any other person."
But, in the video released on Friday, Modi could be heard saying, "…a daughter is a daughter. If she doesn't do it for her own mother, whom will she do it for… I will never take offence of anything she says (in campaigns) as a daughter."
His comments came against the backdrop of Priyanka campaigning actively in the Gandhi family bastions of Rae Bareli (Sonia's seat) and Amethi (Rahul's seat), while upping the ante against Modi.