Accusing Narendra Modi of using Sardar Patel's name for his political goals, Union Minister Shashi Tharoor today said Patel saved lives of thousands of Muslims during 1947 riots, a veiled comparison to 2002 Gujarat riots during Modi's rule.
"He (Patel) was a Gandhian and a tremendous devotee of the Mahatma. I am sorry to hear that some people are choosing his name as a battleground for their political objectives," he said, attacking the BJP Prime Ministerial candidate.
"The fact is that secularism of Sardar Patel was anchored in real genuine Gandhian compassion for all Indians, for all religions, every castes...," he said on the sidelines of an event.
Asked about Modi's alleged attempts to appropriate the legacy of Patel, Tharoor said it was a "shame" that his 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.
Tharoor said Patel was both a national leader and a great Congress leader.
"The fact is that heroes of our nationalism for most part belong to Congress party.... Patel was president of Congress part. He was very active in the organisational work of the party," he said.
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