Rahul Gandhi's reported remark that Congress is a 'party for Muslims' and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dig at him sparked political fireworks today with the BJP alleging its appeasement politics damaged the country and the rival party charging the BJP with trying to sow seeds of hatred and division to continue its rule.
The Congress has denied as false and baseless the remark published recently in an Urdu daily while its minority department head Nadeem Javed, who was quoted as saying that its president described the Congress as being a 'Muslim party', also denied having said so and claimed he was being "misquoted".
The history of partition is testimony to the fact that the Congress' "appeasement politics" has damaged the country, said senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar, intensifying the ruling party's attack against the Congress over Gandhi's reported remark.
The Congress also escalated its offensive against the BJP by hitting back at Modi for using the reported 'Muslim party' remark to take a jibe at the opposition party and said the BJP was the "new version of East India Company" that was allegedly trying to sow seeds of hatred and division in the country to continue its rule like the British.
Slamming Modi's "party for Muslim men" remark against it, the Congress again vehemently refuted reports that claimed Gandhi had told a meeting of Muslim intellectuals that Congress is a "party for Muslims".
Its chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Congress party belongs to people of every religion.
The Congress also got support from Samajwadi Party(SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav, who defended the opposition party from the attack by Modi. Yadav said "parties are of people and not of any religion".
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi also waded into the row, asserting that Muslims should "fight back" and participate in politics to become masters of their destiny".
"Muslims should accept reality, drink this poisonous chalice, stand up, fight back, participate in politics," the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen chief tweeted, and told the community to "become masters of your destiny".
Owaisi tagged a media report on the editor of the Urdu daily defending the story and saying that he stands by the remarks made by Gandhi during his meeting with Muslim intellectuals last week.
Addressing a press conference at the BJP headquarters, Javadekar questioned the Congress president's silence over the issue and said he should come out in the open and clear his stand.
The Congress, he said, stands exposed by its president's statement.
"It is a communal party. Its appeasement politics have damaged the country. The history of partition is testimony to this," Javadekar added.
Javadekar, who is also the Union HRD minister, said such remarks by a national party chief cannot be ignored and added that similar statements had been made by other Congress leaders as well.
He accused the Congress of having a "divisive ideology".
The BJP leader also claimed that Nadeem Javed had justified Gandhi's remark and asserted he was right in saying that Congress is a Muslim party.
Surjewala alleged that Prime Minister Modi was sowing such seeds of hatred and division so that no questions are asked on governance by him as he has failed on all fronts.
"The Prime Minister wants to skirt issues of governance and that is why East India Company's new version is the Bharatiya Janata Party. Divide and rule was the ideology of East India company then and it is the same ideology followed by the BJP now. Whereas, Congress party belongs to people of every religion," he told reporters.
"The Congress party shall continue to point out that Modi ji uses the bogey of minority to divide this country just like East India Company did. So, Modi ji your East India Company will not succeed and will wither away just like the Indian National Congress fought and decimated the East India Company of Britishers, we will with one resolve and dedication and with interest of all Indians take on the might of the divisive agenda of your Government," he said.
Latching onto the remark attributed to Gandhi, Modi had taken a swipe at the Congress during his speech in Azamgarh on Saturday, saying it was a "party for Muslim men" only as it was opposing the tripe talaq bill which would benefit Muslim women.
Surjewala said the particular newspaper which had quoted Gandhi as having made the remark or its representative was not present at the meeting of the Muslim intellectuals with Gandhi.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)