Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday invoked Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on her martyrdom day but also raked up the 1984 anti-Sikh riots after her death.
Flagging of the 'Run for Unity' to commemorate Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's birth anniversary Delhi's Vijay Chowk on Friday, the PM rued, "It was unfortunate that 30 years ago, on the birthday of a man who devoted his life for the unity of the country, a terrible incident happened that gravely injured the nation's unity," referring to the riots.
"Our own people were killed. The incident was not a wound on the throat of any community but a knife, a dagger on India's century-old great social fabric," Modi continued, taking an indirect dig at the Congress.
Neither Modi nor any National Democratic Alliance minister went to Gandhi’s memorial at Shakti Sthal, where many Congress leaders, including party chief Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh, paid their respects.
Congress leaders accused Modi of disrespecting the late prime minister . “Disgraceful that Govt is ignoring the martyrdom of our only Prime Minister who was killed in office in the line of duty,” tweeted Shashi Tharoor.
Former UPA minister Anand Sharma said, “She was the leader of this country who was martyred in office. This pitting of leaders against one another is in bad taste.”.
Earlier, in his speech on Friday, Modi mentioned, "Aaj Shrimati Indira Gandhi ka punya tithi hai (Today, it is Shrimati Indira Gandhi's death anniversary)", even as he devoted the maximum time of his speech to Patel's legacy.
In his welcome speech, urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu had made it clear the event was "not to undermine any other leader but only to do justice to Sardar Patel". Naidu also mentioned that since childhood he believed that history has done injustice to Sardar Patel.
Showering effusive praise on Patel, Modi said, "Just as Ramakrishna Paramhansa remains incomplete without Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi's legacy cannot be fully written without Sardar Patel's contribution."
He mentioned how Patel had organised Mahatma Gandhi's Dandi March in 1930.
The PM said Patel tried to unify the country and thwarted the British ploy to divide India into several pieces. "History remembers Chanakya for his efforts towards development of provinces by unifying them, similarly Sardar Patel's aim too was development through unity."
"Patel has given us Ek Bharat (united India). It is now our duty to make it Shresth Bharat (Best India)."