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New Delhi/Ahmedabad: A day before the final day of campaigning for the Gujarat elections, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress sparred over an alleged meeting former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mani Shankar Aiyar had with some Pakistani officials.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized the Congress on the issue of Pakistan allegedly interfering in the Gujarat elections in the light of the meeting between Singh and former Pakistani diplomats at the residence of suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar in New Delhi.

Singh issued a statement on Monday that demanded an apology from the prime minister to the nation. “I am deeply pained and anguished by the falsehoods and canards being spread to score political points in a lost cause by none less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi.... Sadly and regrettably, Modi is setting a dangerous precedent by his insatiable desire to tarnish every constitutional office, including that of a former prime minister," Singh said in the statement.

Hours after Singh’s statement, finance minister Arun Jaitley and law minister Ravishankar Prasad held a joint press conference and demanded that the Congress come out with details.

“Today former PM Manmohan Singh said that PM Modi should apologize. Congress leaders should know what...was the context of the meeting and its relevance. Did they ask the foreign office before the meeting? There are past precedents. The policy of the government is that no talks with Pakistan will happen unless they stop terrorism," Jaitley told reporters. “Main opposition is also a major part of the political system. No government in the past has had any track record as this government in fighting terrorism. It is surprising that instead of admitting their misadventure, they are demanding an apology from PM Modi. They should seek apology for resorting to such politics," he added.

Meanwhile, as campaigning for the second phase of Gujarat elections draws to a close, Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi hit out at each other once again on Monday.

Their exchange came as Ahmedabad police denied permission to the BJP and the Congress to hold road shows on 12 December, citing security, and law and order concerns. Campaigning ends on Tuesday, 36 hours before polling on 14 December.

In his speech, Modi claimed that the Congress had lost in the first phase of Gujarat elections and was not even thinking about the second round as it knew people would support the BJP.

“Congress has now started making excuses. Their leaders and cheerleaders are blaming EVMs (electronic voting machines), even saying they are hacked using Bluetooth," he said. Modi rejected repeated allegations made by Gandhi in the past few months that he was promoting crony capitalism and said that he (Gandhi) had no idea of poverty.

Modi addressed rallies in Patan, Nadiad and Ahmedabad, while Gandhi addressed public meetings in Banaskantha, Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Gandhinagar.

“Congress alleges that I work for only five-six industrialists. I want to ask you (people) who have seen me work for last 14-15 years, seen me as a chief minister, seen me work here on this land. Do you agree with these allegations?" Modi said in Patan, to shouts of “no". He then urged the crowd to exact “revenge" against the Congress for its “lies" by voting for the BJP.

“I, along with my ministers, used to be out in 45 degree heat and travel to promote education of girl child. Did I do this for Ambani? We used to take out Krishi Rath for farmers for a full month in heat and dust. We used to take scientists to farmers to improve farming. Did we do that for Adani, Tatas or Birlas?"

Modi then went on to list the work he had done as chief minister. He also reminded voters of how he had rushed to North Gujarat region during floods, when Congress legislators were held in a resort at Bengaluru.

“Can you trust those who do not stand by you in times of crisis that too for only one man when hundreds were suffering from floods," he said in reference to 44 Congress legislators being moved to Bengaluru during the Rajya Sabha elections in August, which was won by Ahmed Patel of the Congress.

Gandhi told a rally at Tharad in Banaskantha that “elections are in Gujarat and Modiji is talking about Japan, Pakistan and Afghanistan".

“During his entire speech, half of the time he talks about Congress. You claim that the country has been ‘Congress-mukt’ then why are you giving so much prominence to the Congress in your speeches?" Gandhi said while adding that the prime minister spends the other half talking about himself.

He accused Modi of maintaining silence over the issue development of Gujarat where the BJP has been in power for the last 22 years.

Results of the Gujarat elections will be announced on 18 December.

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