Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday recalled Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel's association with the Congress and his love for secular values, soon after Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said he wished the "Iron Man" had been India's first prime minister.
Speaking after Modi at the inauguration of a museum dedicated to the country's first home minister, Manmohan Singh credited Sardar Patel with making a great contribution in shaping India.
The prime minister said he felt "lucky to be associated with a party that has his legacy.
"It will not be wrong to say that he (Sardar Patel) has a great contribution in laying the foundation stone of the united India the world sees today.
"I am proud and happy about the fact that I belong to a political party to which Sardar Patel was attached," Manmohan Singh added.
The prime minister was sharing the stage with the BJP's prime ministerial candidate Modi.
The prime minister pointed out that Sardar Patel was a "secular man" and he always worked to strengthen the Congress.
"Sardar Patel was totally secular. He believed in the unity of India. All his life he worked to strengthen the Congress," he said.
Sardar Patel, known as the "Iron Man", was the home minister in Jawaharlal Nehru's cabinet after India became independent.