PM counters Modi, describes 'Congressman' Patel as secular in outlook

Ahmedabad, Oct.29 : Countering Gujarat Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's controversial statement of wishing that India''s first home minister, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, should have been the country's first prime minister, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said Patel was a Congress leader who was completely secular in his outlook, and visualised the length and breath of India as his village and home.

In what appeared to be a counter punch of sorts, Dr. Singh, who was participating in a function to inaugurate a museum dedicated to Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel here, said: "Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel was completely secular in his outlook. He was convinced about India's unity. He had often said that the whole of India was his village, and all communities were his friends and relatives."

"Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel was a son of the soil. He always felt for the underprivileged sections of society, and did whatever he could to improve their lives. We must recall the way he convinced the people and farmers of Kheda, Barsad and Bardoli to take part in the Civil Disobedience Movement," Dr. Singh added.

"I am happy to tell you all that the party to which I belong, the Indian National Congress,was also Sardar Patel's party. He spent his entire life dedicated to ensuring the wellbeing and growth of the Congress Party. We are all fortunate to benefit from the work and the experience of Sardar Patel. He was also the president of the Congress during its Karachi Session," Dr. Singh said.

"He played a significant role in our country's freedom struggle, and after we got independence, he played a major role in unifying the country by firmly cajoling and convincing more than 500 princely states to join the Indian Union. He laid the foundation for a unified India which the world knows today," Prime Minister Singh said, adding it was not for nothing that he was known as India's "Loha Purush , or "Iron Man".

Dr. Singh urged the people of the nation, especially the youth to emulate Sardar Patel, and make efforts to improve the country further. He said the Sardar Patel Museum would go a long way towards meeting this inspirational goal of a better and more prosperous India.

Earlier, Modi, in his speech, underlined the need for unity in the country and denounced the culture of violence.

"I wish Patel had become the first Prime Minister of India. Patel was a visionary. In 1919, when he was a councillor in Gujarat, he made sure that a womens'' reservation bill was passed," Modi said.

Hailing Patel as the man who worked tirelessly for the unity of the country, Modi said he felt sadness from his heart over the fact that Patel could not become the nation''s first prime minister, and added that the nation would feel this loss forever.

"He worked for the unity of the country, and has left behind a rich legacy for us. But sadly, whether it is terrorism, or Maoism, attempts are being made to break the country. But, I know, that they will not be successful at their attempts. In the land of Gandhi and Patel, the culture of guns and bombs will never succeed."

"It is need of hour for the youth to abandon the path of bombs and gun politics. Nation building is done with unity and service," he added.

Modi said that if Patel had become the first Prime Minister of India, then the face of the country would have been something else.

"Those who have gone on the wrong path should come back and work for the growth and betterment of the country." Modi said.

--ANI (Posted on 30-10-2013)

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