Modi, in his speech, at the inauguration of a museum dedicated to the memory of Patel, had earlier this evening, 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," Modi said.
Reacting to Modi's comment, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said: " I cannot understand this. They (BJP) should say what is the truth. I think he is pretty preoccupied about being the PM. I am not going to take it seriously. Modi is trying to indulge in nostalgia. He is trying to put questions on Congress. This is his personal belief. We do not have any question mark on our leaders."
Specifically speaking about Patel, Khurshid said: "He has a major role in our nation building. He was a pillar in our democracy. He is our national leader. Please do not restrict to a particular party."
Janata Dal (United) leader K. C. Tyagi said: "He (Modi) was right in pointing it out. However, he does not have any right to make such comments, since he does not believe in the Congress ideology. It (selecting Nehru as India's first PM) was Gandhiji's decision. Because they do not have any leader in their party of such stature, so, they are trying to do politics in Sardarji's name."
Congress leader Rashid Alvi said: "He (Sardar Patel) was a leader of our party. He used to follow Jawaharlal Nehruji. Sardarji used to follow the Congress' policy. He used to work under Jawaharlal Nehruji's leadership. Narendra Modiji should understand this. They are doing this, because they don't have any leaders to do politics in their party."
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury said: "The PM of India and CM of a state sharing a dais is not uncommon. Sardar Patel drafted a constitution against the RSS. He was against the RSS. Sardar Patel spoke about the violence created by the RSS. Mahatma Gandhi became a victim of it.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also countered Modi by saying: "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."
"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".
--ANI (Posted on 30-10-2013)