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Oct 31, 2013 at 02:08pm IST

PM right in saying Sardar Patel was secular, says Narendra Modi

Bharuch: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi kept the controversy over Sardar Patel's political allegiance on his agenda as he spoke at the foundation laying ceremony of the Sardar Patel statue. While acknowledging Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's claim that Patel was secular, Modi, who is also Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate questioned Manmohan over his claims that Patel was a true Congressman.

"Will we not honour Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar? Are they BJP members? Will we only respect the BJP? For us, the country is bigger than party! It's unfair to associate Patel with any party," said Modi.

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Modi stressed that Patel, who was the Home Minister in the Cabinet headed by Jawaharlal Nehru, had no option during the time. "Cannot deny Patel was a part of the party, can't deny history," he said admitting that Patel was in the Congress party.

"I met the Prime Minister. He said something very correct, I am proud of it. Media misreported it. I respect the Prime Minister for saying Sardar Patel was a true secular. I want to say we need the Patel kind of secularism and not vote bank politics," said the Gujarat Chief Minister.

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The BJP leader said that vote bank politics was hampering the unity of the country and vowed that secularism as emulated only by Patel will take the country forward. "We built Mahatma's temple and memorial. Nobody challenged us that Modi you are from BJP why are you building Gandhi who was from Congress. But now they point out why is Modi honouring Patel who is from Congress," Modi added.

"Sardar Patel was called 'loh purush'. How would the country know why he was called that? I want to send a message of unity by building this statue. India's development is not possible without peace and harmony," he said.

Modi also hit out at the Prime Minister alleging the Centre was not allowing the completion of the Sardar Sarovar Dam. "I want to tell the Prime Minister that Rajasthan and Guajrat wants water, Madhya Pradesh wants electricity. I don't want credit, please do this for our farmers, give permission to finish the dam," Modi said.

"My tribal brothers have a right over Naramada water. I promise them they will get the water. We will complete the irrigation work in this area very soon," said Modi.

The political war over Patel's legacy has been the talking point between the two national parties. Modi has minced no words to attack the Nehru-Gandhi family and said that Patel should have been the first Prime Minister, prompting a response from the Prime Minister who said Patel was secular and had deep mutual respect for Nehru.