New Delhi: A rare confrontation between a sitting and a former Prime Minister broke out on Monday, a day after Narendra Modi hinted that his predecessor Manmohan Singh colluded with Pakistan in the Gujarat elections. Singh accused Modi on Monday of setting a “dangerous precedent” and sought his apology.
The usually reticent Congress leader used uncharacteristically strong words to attack his successor for “ill-thought transgression” and rejected his charge as “innuendos and falsehoods”.
Singh was backed by party colleagues Anand Sharma, P Chidambaram and others who accused Modi of dragging political discourse to an “unacceptable low” by “harming” the dignity of his post. They said Modi must apologise to Singh.
Singh issued a statement and said the Gujarat polls were never raised by anyone present at a dinner hosted by Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar for a visiting Pakistani leader at his (Aiyar’s) house on December 6. He said the discussion was confined to India-Pak ties.
Modi had suggested in Gujarat on Sunday that Pakistan was trying to influence the elections in the state. The PM said that some Pakistani officials and Manmohan Singh met at Aiyar’s house. Singh listed those who attended the dinner hosted in honour of visiting former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri. “None of them could be accused of any anti-national activities,” he said.
“I sincerely hope that Prime Minister shows the maturity and gravitas expected of the office he holds instead of concentrating his energy on erroneously conceived brownie points.”
“I sincerely hope that he will apologise to the nation for his ill thought transgression to restore the dignity of the office he occupies,” he said.
Singh said he was “deeply pained and anguished” by the “falsehood and canards” being spread to score political points by the prime minister in what he said was a “lost cause” in Gujarat. The second and final phase of Assembly polls in Gujarat is to be held on December 14. The results for the 182-member Assembly will be out on December 18.
“Fearing imminent defeat in Gujarat, desperation of Prime Minister to hurl every abuse and latch on to every straw is palpable. Sadly and regrettably, Modi is setting a dangerous precedent by his insatiable desire to tarnish every constitutional office, including that of a former Prime Minister and Army Chief,” he alleged.
Addressing a public rally in Vadodara on Sunday, Modi had also asked Singh why he did not show courage to order a surgical strike post the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, despite the readiness of the Army.
The Congress Party, Singh said, needs no sermons on “nationalism” from a party and prime minister, whose “compromised” track record on fighting terrorism is well known, while reminding Modi of his “uninvited” visit to Pakistan after terrorist attacks in Udhampur and Gurdaspur.
“Let him also tell the country the reason for inviting the infamous ISI of Pakistan to our strategic Air Base in Pathankot to investigate a terror attack that emanated from Pakistan,” he said.
Singh claimed that his track record of public service to the country over the last five decades is known to all. He said no one, including Modi, can “lamely question it to gain lost political ground”.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley lashed out at Singh for asking PM Modi to apologise. “Former PM Manmohan Singh has issued a statement asking PM Modi to apologise for what he said in an election rally with regard to a meeting involving Pakistani delegations. It is surprising that Congress expects the PM to apologise for it,” Jaitley said.