Facing flak from the BJP for having recounted Mohd Ali Jinnah among the stalwarts of the Congress party at an election rally, Patna Sahib candidate Shatrughan Sinha on Saturday asserted that he saw nothing to be apologetic about the slip of tongue.

Sinha said he wished to speak about Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, but due to slip of tongue ended up saying Mohd Ali Jinnah.

The actor-politician had made the faux pas at a rally at Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh the previous night while he was rattling off the names of towering personalities associated with the Grand Old Party.

As news channels beamed the relevant excerpt, BJP with which the actor-turned-politician had severed his three decades long ties recently mocked the former Union minister for speaking of the founder of Pakistan in the same breath as Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel.

Shatrughan Sinha has just gone to the Congress. When he was in BJP he used to talk about nationalism. Now, he says that Jinnah was also a great leader like Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel. Congress leaders are praising Jinnah, who has divided the country, BJP president Amit Shah tweeted.

Talking to PTI, Sinha said it was an extempore speech, highly appreciated and applauded.

“I was talking about Congress being the Grand Old Party, a nationalist party in the true sense and its glorious past…people of stature, stalwarts associated with the party and their contribution towards the progress, prosperity and development of the nation. I was speaking about great people like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru but had a slip of tongue when I had wished to speak about Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad. Though I am not apologetic about that,” Sinha said.

“Instead of Maulana Azad, I ended up saying Mohd Ali Jinnah and, in the flow, went on to speak about other leaders like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and post-Independence figures like Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

“I was speaking with conviction and hence people clapped animatedly after my speech. Slips of tongue do happen. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi has spoken of Alexander having come to Bihar and confused the ancient seat of learning in Taxila with Nalanda.

“He once even said that China spent 20 per cent of its GDP on education. He has been able to speak as he pleases and nobody dares to question him,” Sinha, who had been critical of both Modi and Shah calling them one-man show and two-man army, said.

“Now that something came out of my mouth unintentionally, the cheerleaders who have been living in fear got an opportunity to pounce on a shareef (sober) and gareeb (poor) man who enjoys a good man,” he alleged.

Sinha added, “Having said that I must say there is nothing to be apologetic if anybody praises Jinnah. Let us not forget that he too was a stalwart of the pre-Independence era and though he ended up playing a lead role in the Partition of India we cannot deny that he too had made his contributions in the national movement, his ideological differences notwithstanding.”

A second-term MP from Patna Sahib, Sinha is now contesting on a Congress ticket and locked in a straight contest with Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who has been fielded by the BJP.