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PM, Narendra Modi share stage amid battle over Sardar Patel's legacy

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Story Dated: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 11:51 hrs EDT

The Prime Minister sat on stage next to Narendra Modi, the man who hopes to replace him in office, at a function this evening and the two leaders talked and laughed briefly. Dr Manmohan Singh is attending the inauguration of a museum in Ahmedabad dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the iconic leader from Gujarat who was India's first Home Minister.
 
Mr Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, is a guest too at the function organised by the Sardar Patel Trust headed by Congress Member of Parliament Dinshaw Patel. The last time Mr Modi and Dr Singh shared stage was in 2011.

Speaking first, Mr Modi thanked the PM, saying, "Different central ministries have given at least 90 awards to the Gujarat government." He also talked at length about Sardar Patel's legacy.

On Thursday, Mr Modi hosts a Patel event; the foundation will be laid for a massive statue of the leader. Commerce Minister Anand Sharma has turned down Mr Modi's invite to attend, accusing Mr Modi, of "misusing the name of Sardar for political propaganda," in a caustic RSVP.

The Congress has recently begun a high-decibel campaign accusing Mr Modi and his party, the BJP  of trying to appropriate the legacy of Sardar Patel, a lifelong Congressman.
 
The dispute peaked after a newspaper quoted Mr Modi as saying that Sardar Patel's funeral in 1950 was not attended by Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first prime minister. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh tweeted videos that countered that claim. Mr Modi today tweeted that the newspaper has accepted that it misquoted him.
 
But the controversy is still ticking. Union minister Manish Tewari today said that Sardar Patel had in a letter in 1948 linked the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in January that year to the communal politics of the BJP's ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh or RSS.

Mr Tewari said, "I want to ask the BJP or their newly anointed pretender - do they endorse or agree with the views of Sardar Patel with regard to the RSS...?"

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