New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi mentioned the late PM Indira Gandhi as the government commemorated Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s birth anniversary on Friday, and also brought up the anti-Sikh riots that followed her assassination in 1984.
However, neither Modi nor any National Democratic Alliance minister went to Gandhi’s memorial at Shakti Sthal, where many Congress leaders, including party chief Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh, paid their respects.
“Our own people were killed (in the 1984 genocide). The incident was not only an assault on one community but an attack on India’s century-old social fabric,” Modi said before flagging off the ‘Run for Unity’ to observe Patel’s birth anniversary, celebrated as Ekta Diwas.
“Today is Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary,” he said, adding, “It was unfortunate that 30 years ago, on the birthday of a man who devoted his life to the unity of the country, a terrible incident happened that gravely injured the nation’s unity.”
Congress leaders accused Modi of disrespecting the late prime minister. “Disgraceful that Govt is ignoring the martyrdom of our only Prime Minister who was killed in office in the line of duty,” tweeted Shashi Tharoor.
Former UPA minister Anand Sharma said, “She was the leader of this country who was martyred in office. This pitting of leaders against one another is in bad taste.” The BJP, however, said it was not trying to undermine anyone. Urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the Run for Unity event was aimed at doing justice to Sardar Patel. The PM also tweeted, “I join my fellow countrymen & women in remembering former PM Indira Gandhi on her punya tithi.” Modi went to Patel Chowk near Parliament to pay floral tributes to Patel. Finance minister Arun Jaitley and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj also paid their respects to the first home minister of the country.