Gandhinagar: In an interview that was filmed over the weekend, Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, describes Ahmed Patel as a one-time friend who he often ate with, but who now keeps his distance. (Elections: Full Coverage | Live Blog)
The remarks on Mr Patel, the political secretary to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, were among those edited out of the interview that aired on Sunday on national broadcaster Doordarshan.
Mr Modi's party has alleged blatant censorship by the government, which has rejected the charges; Doordarshan says there was no political pressure; and Mr Patel has issued a firm rebuttal to Mr Modi, describing his comments as "ridiculous and baseless" and "an election stunt." (Ahmed Patel: Modi's Friendship Claims are 'Ridiculous')
Mr Modi's high-octane campaign has featured a repository of cutting remarks about Mrs Gandhi and her son, Rahul, who is fronting the Congress campaign for the national election.
Opinion polls show the Congress headed for its worst-performance ever; the BJP, under Mr Modi, is forecast to get the maximum seats. (Also Read: This Will be BJP's Best Performance, Says Modi)
In the unedited interview that is now tenanting an alpha-controversy, Mr Modi says, "Ahmed Patel has been among my good friends in the Congress. Not know, perhaps not now. It seems he has a problem with me and keeps his distance from me. He does not even take (my) phone calls now.. I used to go to his house to eat. We had a good friendship." (Also Read: 'Open to Talks With Like-minded Parties to Keep BJP at Bay': Ahmed Patel)
Mr Patel has called the remarks ridiculous. "I totally deny any closeness to a man who is set to divide India. I will leave public life if Modi can prove I've gone to his house or office since he became Chief Minister (of Gujarat)," he told NDTV.
The Doordarshan telecast also omitted Mr Modi's remarks on Mrs Gandhi's daughter, Priyanka, who has joined her mother and brother in their campaign against the BJP leader. The original interview was 19 minutes longer than the 35-minute version that was broadcast. (Am Rajiv's Daughter, says Priyanka Amid Controversy Over Modi's Reported Remarks)
"Somewhere pressure has been exerted and the interview has been censored," said BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.
Doordarshan officials have said that editing was done purely for "technical reasons."
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said that his ministry does not interfere in Doordarshan's news agenda as it has an "arm's length relationship with Prasar Bharati, which is an autonomous broadcaster by an act of Parliament."