3:14 pm - Monday December 11, 2017

Need Sardar Patel’s secularism, not votebank secularism: Narendra Modi

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Need Sardar Patel's secularism, not votebank secularism: Narendra Modi
Need Sardar Patel's secularism, not votebank secularism: Narendra Modi

Ahmedabad – Narendra Modi told the Prime Minister today, just before he laid the foundation stone for a 182-metre high statue of India’s ‘Iron Man’, that it was “unjust” to associate Sardar Vallabhai Patel with any one party. The Congress has shot back saying the Gujarat Chief Minister needs a lesson in history and geography. And “decorum.”

The Patel statue – intended to be the world’s tallest – is seen as a not-so-subtle attempt by Mr Modi and his BJP to appropriate the legacy of Sardar Patel, an independence hero from Gujarat who spent his life in the Congress party. (Modi’s dream project: 10 things to know about world’s tallest statue)

The Gujarat Chief Minister was this morning rebutting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assertion at a public function on Tuesday that Sardar was a Congressman. “By aligning Sardar Patel with one party you are doing injustice to him,” he said in response to Dr Singh’s comment that “I am proud and happy that I belong to a political party to which Sardar Patel was attached.” (PM, Narendra Modi join tug-of-war over Sardar Patel’s legacy)

In their pitched battle over Patel’s legacy, the PM had also said, “Sardar Patel was totally secular, and believed in the unity of India,” seen as a swipe at Mr Modi, who is accused by the Congress of being a “divisive leader.”

Mr Modi, who is the BJP’s candidate for PM and hopes to replace Dr Singh in Delhi next year, said he concurred with the Prime Minister, but added, “We need Sardar Sahab’s secularism, not vote-bank secularism.”

Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken added more fuel when he declared that Mahatma Gandhi too was a Congressman. “Mr Modi has no knowledge about history or geography. Neither does he have decorum. He is full of arrogance. Being from Mahatma Gandhi’s party I want to say, God give him good sense.”

The Congress is bristling because Mr Modi has also used his ambitious project to undermine his chief rivals, the Gandhi-Nehru political dynasty that heads the Congress. On Tuesday, with the PM on stage, Mr Modi had said, “Every Indian regrets Sardar Patel did not become the first Prime Minister. Had he been the first Prime Minister, the country’s fate and face would have been completely different.” (Modi’s Patel statue project: Legacy, politics and controversy)

Sardar Patel was first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s deputy and his Home Minister, but often at odds with him.

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