In a sharp counter-offensive on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his 'conspiracy with Pakistan' remark, former premier Manmohan Singh on Monday said he was setting a "dangerous precedent" with his "ill-thought transgression" and asked him to apologise to the nation.
In a strongly-worded statement, Singh rejected as "innuendos and falsehoods" Modi's comments, saying he did not discuss the Gujarat Assembly elections with anyone at the dinner hosted by Mani Shankar Aiyar for Pakistan's former foreign minister Kurshid Kasuri here.
"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.
"I sincerely hope that he will apologize to the Nation for his ill thought transgression to restore the dignity of the office he occupies," he said.
Singh said he was "deeply pained and anguished" by the "falsehood and canards" being spread to score political points by the prime minister in what he said was a "lost cause" in Gujarat.
"Fearing imminent defeat in Gujarat, desperation of Prime Minister to hurl every abuse and latch on to every straw is palpable. Sadly and regrettably, Sh. 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," he alleged.
Addressing an election rally in Palanpur in Gujarat yesterday, Modi suggested that Pakistan was trying to influence the assembly polls in the state.
He claimed that some Pakistani officials and Manmohan Singh met at Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar's house over dinner on December 6. This was a day before Aiyar's "neech" jibe against Modi that led to his suspension.
The Congress Party, Singh said, needs no sermons on "nationalism" from a party and prime minister, whose "compromised" track record on fighting terrorism is well known, while reminding Modi of his "uninvited" visit to Pakistan after terrorist attacks in Udhampur and Gurdaspur.
"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.
Claiming that his track record of public service to the country over the last five decades is known to all, he said no one, including Modi, can "lamely question it to gain lost political ground".
Singh said the Gujarat issue was never raised by anyone present at the dinner and the discussion was confined to India-Pakistan relations.
He said besides himself and former vice president Hamid Ansari, others present at Aiyar's dinner hosted for Kasuri, were the Pakistan High Commissioner, Natwar Singh, K S Bajpai, Ajai Shukla, Sharad Sabharwal, Gen Deepak Kapoor, TCA Raghavan, Satinder K Lambah, M K Bhadrakumar, CR Gharekhan, Prem Shankar Jha, Salman Haider and Rahul Khushwant Singh.
"None of them could be accused of indulging in any anti- national activities," he said.