Nagpur/Ahmedabad: Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar was sharply critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday for "deliberately" misconstruing the dinner meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar's residence that was attended by former prime minister Manmohan Singh as well.
PM Modi, and later the BJP, had linked the dinner meeting for Pakistan dignitaries and attended by Manmohan Singh with the ongoing Assembly polls. The insinuation was that Dr Manmohan Singh had colluded with Pakistan, a charge that Dr Singh has described as "falsehood and canards" and demanded an apology.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has rejected the demand for an apology, calling the meeting a "misadventure".
"He (PM Modi) should be ashamed of accusing him (Manmohan Singh) of this," Mr Pawar, a former defence minister, said at a public meeting in Nagpur to launch protests against the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra for its failure to handle the agrarian crisis.
Mr Pawar, whose party had broken its alliance with the Congress ahead of the assembly elections in Maharashtra in 2014 and was later perceived to be moving closer to the BJP, has been to attacking the BJP-led national coalition.
"All these problems are being avoided and to avoid people's agitation, they are involving Pakistan to invoke people," Mr Pawar said, accusing him of having demeaned the office of the prime minister by leveling baseless allegations.
Mr Pawar said Dr Manmohan Singh, who "is considered respectful and a patriot", has been accused of using Pakistan's help to decide who will be the Chief Minister of Gujarat. "This is wrong," he said.
The former minister said PM Modi had brought in the Pakistan angle as a diversionary tactic as the NDA hadn't solved the farmer and other issues the country faces.
Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi had also hit out at PM Modi for the remarks earlier in the day, calling the comments "not acceptable".
On Tuesday, the Shiv Sena too waded into the controversy.
In an editorial in its mouthpiece 'Saamana', the Shiv Sena said PM Modi had levelled a serious charge and he should act.
"When sand below the feet starts moving, Pakistan and Dawood chanting begins. It is happening today as well. This is an impious way," the Sena said.
"Prime Minister Modi has leveled a serious charge that Pakistan is interfering in Gujarat polls. We can understand the worries of Modi but a PM is supposed to take action and not level allegations," the BJP's bitter ally from Maharashtra said, wondering why "either Pakistan or fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim" were always brought to the forefront during elections.
"The country expects (PM) Modi to work. How many times will you chant Pakistan's name?" it said.