Gujarat Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi stirred a political controversy on Tuesday, by saying he wished India's first home minister, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, had been the country's first prime minister.
Addressing participants at a function to inaugurate a museum dedicated to Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel here, Modi underlined the need for unity in the country and denounced the culture of violence.
"I wish Patel had become the first Prime Minister of India. Patel was a visionary. In 1919, when he was a councillor in Gujarat, he made sure that a womens' reservation bill was passed," Modi said.
Hailing Patel as the man who worked tirelessly for the unity of the country, Modi said he felt sadness from his heart over the fact that Patel could not become the nation's first prime minister, and added that the nation would feel this loss forever.
"He worked for the unity of the country, and has left behind a rich legacy for us. But sadly, whether it is terrorism, or Maoism, attempts are being made to break the country. But, I know, that they will not be successful at their attempts. In the land of Gandhi and Patel, the culture of guns and bombs will never succeed."
"It is need of hour for the youth to abandon the path of bombs and gun politics. Nation building is done with unity and service," he added.
Modi said that if Patel had become the first Prime Minister of India, then the face of the country would have been something else.
"Those who have gone on the wrong path should come back and work for the growth and betterment of the country." Modi said.
At the same time, he welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the event and thanked him for all the awards that the Centre had bestowed upon Gujarat for good governance.
He said the awards had inspired his government to work harder.
"Dear Prime Minister, I thank you for instituting the awards for good governance. In your tenure, Gujarat has won more than 90 awards," said Modi.