Gujarat Assembly Election 2017: PM Modi said senior Congress leaders met Pakistan representatives. (File)
Palanpur, Gujarat: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley took on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday evening over his piercing rebuttal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has accused Pakistan of trying to meddle in the Gujarat assembly elections, linking it to a dinner hosted for a visiting Pakistani leader by Mani Shankar Aiyar, now suspended by the Congress. Mr Jaitley called the dinner, which was attended by Dr Singh and other Congress leaders, a "misadventure," saying it was surprising they had sought the PM's apology when it was they who "did not follow the national line on Pakistan."
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"The Congress should come out with facts of what transpired at the meeting and explain what was the necessity of it...to hold parallel dialogues, underplay Pakistan's role in terrorism," said Mr Jaitley.
Dr Manmohan Singh has asked for an apology to the nation, denying PM Modi's charge that he discussed the Gujarat elections with Pakistani guests at the dinner show. "Fearing imminent defeat in Gujarat, desperation of Prime Minister to hurl every abuse and latch on to every straw is palpable. PM Modi is setting a dangerous precedent by his insatiable desire to tarnish every constitutional office," Dr Singh said.
Mani Shankar Aiyar's dinner party on Wednesday last week, December 6, was also attended by former vice president Hamid Ansari, ex-Army Chief Deepak Kapoor and the Pakistan High Commissioner, apart from former diplomats and others.
PM Modi has linked to that dinner Mr Aiyar's "neech" slur against him the next morning, saying at an election rally in Gujarat on Sunday, "Pakistan Army's former DG is interfering in Gujarat's election, on the other hand, Pakistani people are holding a meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar's house. After that meeting, people of Gujarat, backward communities, poor people and Modi were insulted. Don't you think such events raise doubts?"
"This is a serious matter," PM Modi said, adding that the Congress must explain the meeting and also former Pakistani Army officer Sardar Arshad Rafiq's "post" saying that the Congress' Ahmed Patel, who is a Gujarat Rajya Sabha lawmaker and political secretary to outgoing Congress president Sonia Gandhi, should be Gujarat's next chief minister.
Two ex-diplomats who attended the dinner last Wednesday said discussions revolved around India-Pakistan ties only and the Gujarat elections were not discussed. Manmohan Singh was present during the discussions but "did not say a thing", top sources said.
This morning, Pakistan's foreign office spokesperson tweeted, "India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate and win victories on own strength rather than fabricated conspiracies, which are utterly baseless and irresponsible."
India responded sharply with union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad saying, "Completely abhor outside interference in India's internal affairs. Pakistan's promotion of terrorism in India is well known but Pakistan must stop giving us lessons."
Rahul Gandhi, elected Congress president today, said at an election rally in Gujarat, "Modi-ji is talking about Japan, Pakistan, Afghanistan. Modi-ji, this is Gujarat elections, talk a little bit about Gujarat too."
After a bitter campaign, Gujarat voted in the first phase of assembly elections on Saturday. The second and last phase will be held on Thursday. Results in what is seen as a PM Modi vs Rahul Gandhi battle will be announced on Monday next, December 18.