As a Congress-Bharatiya Janata Party war of words broke out over Sardar Patel's legacy, Congress on Thursday portrayed Narendra Modi with his "designer clothes and branded glasses" as a contrast to India's Iron Man, "who saved Muslims during 1947 riots" and was "humility personified".
"Sardar -- humility personified! Modi -- conceit and arrogance personified. Sardar -- United India! Modi -- Divides NDA BJP and Hindus and Minorities," Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh tweeted.
Accusing Modi of using Sardar Patel's name for his political goals, Union Minister Shashi Tharoor said Patel saved lives of thousands of Muslims during 1947 riots, a veiled comparison to 2002 Gujarat riots during Modi's rule.
Tharoor said it was a "shame" that Patel's name should be used for disunity today as "he did more than anyone else to promote the unity of our country".
During the frenzy of riots in the national capital in 1947, Patel put hundreds of Muslims in Red Fort and he brought army from Pune and the then state of Madras to protect them, he said, adding that he went and prayed in Nizamuddin to send a signal to Hindu rioters. "He went to Amritsar and pleaded with angry and emotional Hindus and Sikhs there not to attack refugees who were fleeing our country to go to Pakistan.... This is the kind of secularism Patel promised and practiced," Tharoor said.
Modi has been accused by critics of not doing enough to stop the 2002 riots in which over 1000 people, a large number of them Muslims, were killed.
Ridiculing Modi, Digvijay said on Twitter, "Sardar was known for his simplicity and humility wore Khadi all his life. Modi poses with designer clothes and branded glasses."
The Congress alleged there is a dangerous design to project Patel as the ideal of communal elements, which is a denigration for him and injustice to history. "Had Patel been alive today or even few more years more, there would have been no existence of an institution like the RSS. And hence obviously there was no question of BJP's existence," party spokesperson Raj Babbar told reporters in New Delhi.
While the Congress lashed out him, Modi, speaking at the foundation laying ceremony of the 182-metre proposed statue of Patel in Kevadia, launched a frontal attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying the country needed secularism of the kind followed by the 'Iron Man' and not the one that was linked to votebank politics. But the Congress said Patel's stature is not dependent on the height of some iron idol. "Patel was not called an iron man because in some distant future, his idol of iron will be built," Babbar said.
The 'Statue of Unity' of Patel being constructed by Gujarat government at an estimated cost of Rs 2,063 crore will be more than double the size of New York's 'Statue of Liberty' standing at 93 metres, and many times taller than the statue of 'Christ the Redeemer' in Rio De Janeiro.