Narendra Modi was on Tuesday dubbed as a "pseudo-patriot" by the mother of Kargil war hero Captain Vikram Batra, after he invoked the soldier's legacy to seek votes for his party during an election campaign in Himachal Pradesh.
Addressing a rally in Palampur, Captain Vikram's hometown, Modi said, "When we take the name of Major Somnath Sharma (the first recipient of the Param Vir Chakra, the highest Indian gallantry award) and Vikram Batra, we feel proud. Our mind says yeh dil mange more."
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"You have given 60 years to the rulers in the country. You give just 60 months to this worker. Yeh dil mange 60 months," Modi said.
However, in a sharp rebuke, Captain Vikram's mother Kamal Kanta Batra called the BJP's prime ministerial nominee a "pseudo-patriot".
"He was in Palampur during Kargil war, but he did not visit us," said Kamal.
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Captain Vikram, before he died fighting Pakistani infiltrators in 1999, had told a news channel yeh dil mange more, his favourite catch-phrase from a soft-drink ad campaign. This phrase was used repeatedly by Modi in his speech.
Reacting cautiously to Kamal's statements, Modi tweeted: "Have immense respect for Kargil martyr Vikram Batra & his parents; will quit politics rather than allow dignity of martyrs be hurt."
In Delhi, however, BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi told reporters that Kamal should have joined the saffron party.
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Kamal has been fielded by the Aam Aadmi Party against Anurag Thakur, the BJP's sitting MP from Hamirpur, a town with a large concentration of serving and retired soldiers.
In an open letter to Modi, quoted by NDTV, Kamal asked him, "If you used "yeh dil maange more" to praise my son...please realise...it is not enough to praise him...you should think of what can be done to honour a martyr's family.
"Why was no one from a soldier's family given a chance by the BJP earlier to run as a candidate?"she said.
The mother added: "Your name is everywhere in this campaign. Only Arvind Kejriwal's party thought of honouring us this way, asking us if we would like to contest. I want to help people."
The soldier's father, GL Batra, joined his wife in the attack.
"He was a brave son of the country who sacrificed for the nation. Now if they are remembering, doing politics over it, I think it does not behove," he said.
Kamal's supporters, however, are learnt to have told the BJP that if Modi felt indebted to Captain Vikram's legacy, the saffron party must withdraw Thakur from the contest.
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