Modi had stirred a hornet's note with his remarks at an election rally over a meeting between Congress leaders and a Pakistani delegation.
The row over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's allegations of Pakistani interference and Congress collusion in the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections boiled over on Monday as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched a scathing attack on his successor and sought an apology.
Modi had stirred a hornet's note a day earlier with his remarks at an election rally over a meeting between Congress leaders and a Pakistani delegation.
What did the Prime Minister say?
At an election rally in Gujarat on Sunday, PM Modi accused Pakistan of interfering in the ongoing elections in his home state.
Modi: "There were media reports yesterday about a meeting at [Congress leader] Mani Shankar Aiyar's house. It was attended by Pakistan's high commissioner, Pakistan's former foreign minister, India's former vice-president (Hamid Ansari) and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The meeting at Aiyar's house carried on for almost three hours".
The prime minister also claimed that Pakistan Army's former director-general, Sardar Arshad Rafiq was interfering in Gujarat's election, alleging that he had appealed to make Congress veteran Ahmed Patel the next Chief Minister of Gujarat in a post on social media. Moneycontrol could not independently verify the veracity of the post.
What happened next?
The Congress party was quick to call the claims "baseless". The party also said the prime minister made the allegations as he was worried about the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s impending defeat in the Gujarat Assembly elections.
Pakistan too refuted the claims and asked not to be dragged into India's domestic electoral battles. Islamabad said that PM Modi's allegations of a recent "secret three-hour meeting" attended by Congress and Pakistani officials are "fabricated conspiracies, which are utterly baseless and irresponsible".
Did the meeting really happen?
Yes. The statement put out by Manmohan Singh clearly lists out guests present at the meeting. There were 18 people present at the meeting including the former prime minister himself, former Vice President Hamid Ansari, former External Affairs minister Natwar Singh, former Chief of Army Staff Gen. Deepak Kapoor, Pakistani High Commission to India Sohail Mahmood and former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.
Was there collusion? Ajay Shukla, retired Colonel of Indian Army, who was also present at the meeting, told CNN News18 that India's domestic issues and the election were not discussed.
Modi claims that the morning after the dinner, Mani Shankar Aiyar had called him a 'neech aadmi', which led to the senior Congress leader being suspended from his party.
For his part, Manmohan Singh said that the Gujarat assembly election was not discussed at the meeting.Singh issued a statement saying that he had been "deeply pained and anguished by the falsehood and canards being spread to score political points in a lost cause by none less than the prime minister." Singh also sought an apology from the prime minister for making the accusations.
Statement from Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on the falsehoods being spread to score political points, in a lost cause by PM Modi. pic.twitter.com/X20X3oeeYw
— Congress (@INCIndia) December 11, 2017
But Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley came to defence of Modi, saying asking for an apology was "beyond comprehension"."It is surprising that the Congress party expects the Prime Minister of India to apologise for it," Jaitley said. "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."