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Oct 29, 2013 at 10:57pm IST

Manmohan, Modi share dais in Ahmedabad, praise Sardar Patel

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Gujarat Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi shared the dais on Tuesday at the inauguration of renovated Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Museum in Ahmedabad. The leaders praised Sardar Patel's for his contribution to the nation.

Modi in his speech said that Sardar Patel should have been the first Prime Minsiter of India and added that the fortune of the country would have been different if Patel would have been the first PM.

While starting his speech, Modi thanked the Prime Minister for the central awards that have been given to the Gujarat government in the field of good governance.

Manmohan Singh too praised the veteran leader and said that he was happy to be part of the Congress to which Patel belonged. He also said that despite differences between Jawaharlal Nehru Nehru and Patel, they respected each other.

He said that Patel played an important role in uniting the country and recalled how Patel used to refer to the people of all religions as his friends. He called him secular and added that he was one of the greatest leaders in India.

This was the first time the two leaders came together after the BJP anointed Modi as its PM candidate.

Earlier in the day, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma declined Modi's invitation for the unveiling of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel statue. In a strong two-page letter to Modi, Sharma had accused Modi of using Sardar Patel's legacy for political gains. "The initiators of such a grand project must be guided by sincere motives and subscribe to noble values of Sardar. It is important that his memory must not be coloured by partisan political agenda. Misusing the name of Sardar for political propoganda as you chose to do at Patna rally with a deliberate untruth was a disrespect to his memory," Anand Sharma wrote in his letter to Modi.

The Congress and the BJP have been in a battle over Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. The Congress has accused Modi of misrepresenting facts to appropriate Patel's legacy. Narendra Modi had clarified that the newspaper, Divya Bhaskar, had misquoted him. Modi was quoted as having said that the Congress had no respect for Patel and that Jawaharlal Nehru was absent at his funeral. The Congress hit back and released a video to counter Modi's claim which shows Nehru present at Patel's funeral.