Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegations that Pakistan was trying to influence the outcome of the assembly elections in Gujarat was “utterly baseless and irresponsible”, the neighbouring country has said.
“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,” spokesperson of Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs Mohammad Faisal tweeted on Sunday.
Modi on Sunday referred to a Facebook post by the former director general of the Pakistan army Sardar Arshad Rafiq, saying that senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel should be the next Gujarat chief minister. The post was covered by a section of the Indian media.
The Prime Minister also attacked Congress’ suspended leader Mani Shankar Aiyar over the latter’s “neech aadmi” (low-class man) jibe at him. Modi drew a connection between Aiyar’s remark and Pakistan’s interference.
“There were media reports yesterday about a meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house. It was attended by Pakistan’s high commissioner, Pakistan’s former foreign minister, India’s former vice president and former prime minister Manmohan Singh,” Modi said.
“The next day, Mani Shankar Aiyar said Modi was ‘neech’. This is a serious matter,” he said adding that they met for almost three hours.
The Congress was quick to deny the charges and asked Modi’s government to repatriate Pakistan’s top diplomat in the country if he was indeed meddling in an Indian election.
“It’s a foregone conclusion that he has abdicated the politics of development in both action and words. But does it befit the stature of the Prime Minister to rely on canards, rumours & lies just for an election? This is very sad,” Patel, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, tweeted.
This was not the first time the BJP has referred to Pakistan in an election campaign. Last year, ahead of the Assam election, which it won, the BJP said if the Congress won, fireworks would go off in celebration in Pakistan.
“Modi is back to the same old Pakistan bogey. It was Mian Musharraf in 2002 … Sir Creek issues in 2012, and now he’s talking about Pakistan’s interference in Gujarat polls. If Modi thinks that Pakistan is meddling in Gujarat polls, why doesn’t he expel the Pakistani high commissioner in India?” the party’s national spokesperson Manish Tewari asked.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi, another Congress spokesperson, said Patel himself had dismissed recent rumours that he would be made chief minister if the Congress won.
The Congress also came out in defence of Singh and pointed out that as the prime minister he never went to Pakistan in 10 years.
“Is Modi suggesting Singh and former VP Hamid Ansari are untrustworthy people? It’s not Singh but PM Modi who went to Lahore and we got (the) Pathankot terror attack” Tewari said.
The first phase of the Gujarat elections ended on Saturday; 89 seats went to the polls. The second phase, for 93 seats is on December 14 and campaigning ends on December 12.
The BJP has governed Gujarat for 22 years. The Congress is hoping to unseat the BJP by tapping the angst over the agrarian crisis and the implementation of the goods and services tax, and on the strength of a coalition it has built with Patidars, some other backward classes, and Dalits.
The BJP is hoping to retain power on the strength of the popularity of Prime Minister Modi, who was chief minister of the state for 13 years, and its record of development and governance.
Analysts expect it to be a close fight, although the BJP has maintained that it is confident of bettering its tally of 119 seats in the 182-member assembly in 2012. Opinion polls give the Congress anything between 37 and 85 seats, and the BJP 92-141.