Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Monday expressed anguish at the "falsehood” and "canards” being spread by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "score political points”. In a statement, the former PM said "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”.
"I am deeply pained and anguished by the falsehood and canards being spread to score political points in a lost cause by none less than PM Shri Narendra Modi." read the statement.
At an election rally in Gujarat, Modi suggested that Singh and others held a "secret meeting” with Pakistani officials at suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s residence to "influence” the outcome of the Gujarat elections.
Manmohan Singh called for the Prime Minister's apology and said: "I sincerely hope that Prime Minister will show the maturity and gravitas expected of the high office he holds instead of concentrating his energy solely on erroneously conceived brownie points."
Singh, former Vice President Hamid Ansari and former Army Chief Deepak Kapoor were among the guests at a dinner on Wednesday that also featured the Pakistan envoy, a former Pakistan minister, an ex-Pakistan army officer, former Indian diplomats and journalists. Dr Singh is the fourth guest from that dinner to stress that discussions revolved around India-Pak ties, not domestic politics or Gujarat polls.
"Sadly and regrettably, Mr 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," the former PM said in his statement. "Fearing imminent defeat in Gujarat, desperation of Prime Minister to hurl every abuse and latch on to every straw is palpable," he added.
"My track record of public service to the country over last five decades is known to everyone. No one, including Sh. Modi, can lamely question it to gain lost political ground," he wrote.
The Congress Party needed no sermons on "nationalism” from a party and Prime Minister, ''whose compromised track record on fighting terrorism is well known,'' he said. Modi had "gone to Pakistan uninvited after the terrorist attacks in Udhampur and Gurdaspur,” he pointed out.
"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.
"I reject the innuendos and falsehoods as I did not discuss Gujarat elections with anyone else at the dinner hosted by Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar as alleged by Shri Modi. Nor was the Gujarat issue raised by anyone else present at the dinner. The discussion was confined to India-Pakistan relations. Names of the distinguished Indian public servants and journalists present at the dinner are enclosed to this statement. None of them could be accused of indulging in any anti-national activities.
"I sincerely hope that he will apologize to the Nation for his ill thought transgression to restore the dignity of the office he occupies,” Dr. Singh said.
"Pakistan’s High Commissioner, former foreign minister, India’s former vice-president and India’s former prime minister Manmohan Singh all met at Aiyar’s house, held a meeting for three hours, and then the next day, Mani Shankar calls Modi ‘neech.’ This is a serious and sensitive issue, being a meeting with the Pakistan High Commissioner. Also, what is the reason for such a secret meeting amidst Gujarat elections?” Modi had said.
Earlier today, the Congress responded by calling the BJP the real colluder, as it was the latter's government that gave Pakistani intelligence officials access to India's top air force base in Pathankot after the terror attack there.
It also hit out at PM Modi for his "highly irresponsible comments," clarifying that the meeting was actually a social event attended by top dignitaries, diplomats and even the former Army chief.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, too, chimed in, asking PM Modi to take requisite action if he believes Pakistan is interfering in India's internal affairs.
"If PM honestly believes then he must immediately take action. He must direct NIA to arrest them because if he believes that Pakistan is interfering, then tell NIA. Why doesn't he use Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or NSA," ANI quoted him as saying.