PM Narendra Modi accuses Congress of negating Sardar Patel's role, Congress hits back
New Delhi : The birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on Tuesday saw the BJP and Congress spar over his legacy, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching a veiled attack on the Congress, saying some political parties and governments had tried to obliterate his name from history books or ignore his contribution in unifying the country.
Modi's attack came before flagging off the 'Run for Unity' at the National Stadium here on the birth anniversary of the first Deputy Prime Minister celebrated as "National Unity Day." The Congress, while remembering Patel, quoted his remarks against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The sparring took place in the backdrop of Gujarat Assembly elections where a fight over the legacy of Patel has intensified between the BJP and its rivals as they seek to woo the Patel community.
Modi, in his speech, also referred to terrorism across the world and said people belonging to the same faith were killing each other.
"Today in the world, people who have grown up in the same faith are not willing to see each other alive. They are bent upon killing each other. Pushing the world into a whirl of violence, they are trying to increase the spread of their thinking. At this time, India can say with pride that we are that country that has taken in all the traditions of the world and has tied them in string of unity," Modi said.
"This is our legacy, this is our strength and the way to our bright future," he added.
Modi said the British tried their best to divide the country and ruin India as a nation and it was Patel's farsightedness that he used every tactic and strategy "saam, daam, dand, bhed" to bring about a united India after Independence.
Modi said attempts were made either to erase Patel's name from history or to diminish his stature.
"But history is witness to the fact that whether any government accepted him or not or whether any political party gave importance to him or not, the youth of the country will never forget him and will not allow him to be banished from history," Modi said.
He also invoked India's first President, Rajendra Prasad, to say his (Prasad's) soul would be happy that Sardar Patel has not been forgotten.Modi said that Sardar Patel was still alive in the hearts of people. He said Sardar Patel saved India from the problems that emerged soon after Partition and ensured the integration of the princely states.
The Congress, in its tribute to Sardar Patel, tweeted his picture and his remarks against the RSS: "The speeches of the Sangh (RSS) leaders are poisonous. It is as a result of this venom that Mahatma Gandhi has been assassinated.
"The activities of RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the government and state."
The party said: "Remembering Iron Leader Sardar Patel, whose uncompromising efforts were instrumental in keeping India united after Independence."
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet that Sardar Patel was an embodiment of integrity and strength. "Sardar Patel was one of the architects of the Idea of India. My tributes to him on his birth anniversary."
Patel's birth anniversary is also the day Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984. Top Congress leaders paid floral tributes to the former Prime Minister at her memorial.
Modi, in his speech, made a mention of October 31 being the death anniversary of Indira Gandhi. He also administered a pledge to keep the nation united to large number of people who took part in the Run For Unity.