NEW DELHI: The Congress has hit back at Narendra Modi for calling it a party that stood only for Muslim men, alleging the prime minister was spreading the "poison of hatred and division" sensing defeat in the next election. The reaction came after the prime minister attacked the Congress and Rahul Gandhi over his remarks reported by an Urdu daily and the party's stand on triple talaq issue.
"I read in the newspaper that the Congress president had said that Congress is a party of Muslims, and there has been a discussion on this for the past two days. I am not surprised as when Manmohan Singh was PM, he had said that Muslims have the first right over natural resources," Modi said in a rally in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday.
Reacting to the remarks, Congress's communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala said the Prime Minister was lying by using the names of Rahul Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. He said the prime minister looks "desperate" sensing defeat in the next polls, and was seen spreading the "poison of hatred and division" in the society.
He alleged that prime minister Modi was blinded by his desire to take revenge on Rahul Gandhi.
Congress spokesperson Pramod Tiwari said, "If any party that has taken every section of the society along it is the Congress. This tradition has been followed from Jawaharlal Nehru to Rahul Gandhi."
"We respect every religion and we don't believe in the politics of division," he told reporters.
On the triple talaq issue, Tiwari said, "We are in favour of triple talaq. Now the PM is saying he will talk why didn't he talk about it before introducing the bill. Deliberately you are bringing it in such a way..If you want to talk then talk, it should be in favour of women."
Countering Modi's charge on triple talaq, senior Congress leader and former Union minister Salman Khurshid claimed the prime minister "knows nothing" about the issue and should not speak on it. "Does the PM know what triple talaq is? Does the PM know any of these things. If he can say in public what is triple talaq, we will be very happy to answer him. I think, the PM should not speak on everything particularly on the subjects he does not know about," Khurshid said.
"There is no Muslim, Hindu, Christian party. There are political parties and they are political parties made up of human beings. It is good if the BJP was to discover what human beings are. They have spent too much time amongst those who are not human beings," the Congress leader said in a scathing attack on the ruling party. The BJP and the Congress have been sparring after the Urdu daily reported that the Rahul Gandhi who met Muslim intellectuals earlier this week had told them that the Congress was a party of Muslims. The Congress has dismissed the media report as a "rumour" and asserted that it was a party of 132 crore Indians.
Sitharaman had on Saturday demanded that Gandhi clarify his stand and alleged that the Congress was "playing up the card of religion and communal division". The Congress retorted by saying that the defence minister should first answer questions about the alleged corruption in the Rafale deal and accused her of carrying forward the "polarising agenda of the prime minister".
"After taming Pakistan, eliminating terrorism, stopping infiltration and acquiring Rafale aircraft, the Defence Minister has all the time in the world to inquire into the religious affiliations of parties and persons!" former finance minister P Chidambaram tweeted.
Attacking prime minister Modi over his remarks in Azamgarh and his 'Namamdaar' jibe, Congress spokesperson Tiwari said be it social media or common man's language you also have a number of nicknames. "If we take those names you will start crying that I am the PM and I was called this," he said.
"Before speaking about others, you must think that if you take jibes at leaders of other parties, lowering the dignity of the office you hold, till when will we keep respecting the office you hold, we will also have to call you by the names by which you are known," Tiwari said.
He said Modi's body language at the rally was one of a general whose army is facing defeats after defeats.
Tiwari also hit out at Modi for taking "undue credit" for the Purvanchal Expressway, saying the land acquisition for the project was done much before he came to power.
Tiwari also evoked the Unnao rape case and said the BJP MLA accused of raping a minor in Uttar Pradesh still holds his position in the party. He also alleged that Parliament did not function in the last session because of the BJP government.
"They do not want it to function as they will have to answer on issues such as the Rafale deal and Nirav Modi," he said.
"Four years have passed, stop making claims and answer where are these Rs 15 lakh you promised. Where are the jobs? Answer about price rise, about the rupees' declining value, when will oil prices be reduced. You should have answered that in Azamgarh today," Tiwari said.