The controversy over Narendra Modi's interview to Doordarshan intensified today with Sonia Gandhi's political aide Ahmed Patel refuting the BJP's PM candidate's claims of closeness between them, saying the remarks were "baseless" and "a complete lie".
He said Modi's "ridiculous" claims of their meeting or the two sharing friendship were a "political stunt" to create "confusion" in the midst of election and offered to quit public life if there was any proof of having taken favours from the Gujarat Chief Minister.
"This is a political stunt to create confusion and create a cloud of doubt in the midst of elections. How can Modi be able to make friendship with me when he has never been able to strike friendship within his own party?" he said.
Insisting that he never had any meeting with Modi either in his office or at his residence nor had he taken any favour from the Gujarat Chief Minister, Patel said that Modi did come to his place for lunch when he was BJP General Secretary in the eighties.
Besides that, "I never had any one-to-one meeting with Modi before or after the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002."
The BJP's PM candidate, in an interview to Doordarshan, had said: "Ahmedbhai has been one of my very good friends in Congress. He is not so now. Perhaps he is having some difficulty now and he avoids me as he does not take even my phone calls.
"I used to go to his residence to dine with him. It was a good friendship and I believe that personal friendship should remain," he said.
"We never used to call him Ahmedbhai. For years, we used to call him Babubhai. This is not known outside. For us Ahmedbhai was Babubhai. But in public life he has to be given respect. It will not look good if I call him Babubhai. Calling him Mian Sahab is very honourable and I use this honourable word," he said responding to questions including as to why he used to call Patel 'Mianbhai'.
Responding to it, Patel said, "I do not know who are and who are not his friends in Congress, but if somebody is saying that I was very close to him or is very close friend, it is all to create doubts in the midst of elections. It is all baseless and ridiculous, a complete lie.
"If he proves that I ever visited his house or his office or taken any favour, I will quit public life."
Patel said that he "felt like laughing" over Modi's remarks that he is his friend.
"It is far from truth what he is talking about our dining at each other's house. I remember once in the eighties he had come to my residence, when he was General Secretary of BJP in the eighties. I did offer him food then.
"When he became Chief Minister for the first time, he used to call me on phone whenever there was festival and I used to answer him out of courtesy, to acknowledge that his phone call had come.
"Beyond that I do not remember having taken any personal favour from him or having told him anything about my constituency," the Congress leader said.
Patel at the same time said that Modi had indeed mentioned to him about Sardar Sarovar Project and one or two issues and asked him to look into that.
"But I don't remember having approached him for any work. But talking of such a thing in the middle of elections and trying to mislead people, does not behove people occupying a position of responsibility. He is the PM candidate of a party. I smell some politics behind it. Perhaps it is being said with an eye on some electoral benefit," he said.
A row had erupted yesterday over reports that Doordarshan had "censored" Modi's interview, with BJP alleging that it was due to government "pressure" even as the public broadcaster insisted that there was no interference by any authority or any "deliberate omission".
The government also denied any hand in the alleged omission of the part of the interview in which Modi was claimed to have said that Priyanka Gandhi was like his daughter, arguing that Prasar Bharati, which runs DD, is autonomous.
In his interview, Modi, however, had said that he does not take seriously Priyanka Gandhi's attack on him saying that any daughter or sister will do anything to ensure the victory of her mother and brother.
"Because a daughter is after all daughter. If she does not do it for her mother and brother, for whom will she do it," he had said.
"And I will never mind whatever she says being a daughter. Even she hurls ten more abuses than this, a daughter is a daughter and we cannot be angry with her," Modi had said.
As media went viral with the report, Priyanka Gandhi contemptuously dismissed the reported comments by Modi and said she did not "appreciate" this comparison with her father.
"I am Rajiv Gandhi's daughter," was Priyanka's terse reply.
She added, "My father died for this country more than 20 years ago. I love him more than I love anybody else in my life. And I don't appreciate this comparison at all. My father is a martyr. He sacrificed for the country. And in my heart, he can never be compared to any other person," she said.
Attacking Modi, Patel said, "How can someone who abuses my leaders and my party be a friend of mine. I will prefer to quit public life but cannot do anything which can hurt my leaders or my party."
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