Karnataka Congress chief DK Shivakumar - who yesterday expressed regret for his party's "uncivil" tweet about Prime Minister Narendra Modi - has hit back at the BJP after his counterpart levelled drug use allegations against Kerala MP Rahul Gandhi.
Mr Shivakumar reminded the BJP that he had apologised for his party's unfortunate tweet - which he attributed to a "novice social media manager" - and called on the ruling party to reciprocate.
"Yesterday I said I believe we should be civil and respectful in politics, even to our opponents. I hope the BJP agrees with me, and will apologise for their state president's abusive and unparliamentary remarks against Rahul Gandhi," Mr Shivakumar said Wednesday morning.
Yesterday I said I believe we should be civil and respectful in politics, even to our opponents. I hope the BJP agrees with me, and will apologise for their state president's abusive and unparliamentary remarks against Shri Rahul Gandhi.@RahulGandhi— DK Shivakumar (@DKShivakumar) October 19, 2021
This comes a day after Karnataka BJP chief Nalin Kumar Kateel attacked Mr Gandhi, calling him "a drug addict", and claiming "it (proof of his allegations) has appeared in news reports".
He also took a swipe at the Congress' leadership issues - spotlighted this week during a meeting of the CWC, at which Mr Gandhi reportedly said he would consider returning as party boss.
"Your G-23 says Sonia Gandhi is not president. Sonia Gandhi says she is president. On the other hand, Rahul Gandhi says he will become president. Tell me what is Rahul Gandhi? Rahul Gandhi is a drug addict and drug peddler... I'm not saying this, it has appeared in news reports," Mr Kateel said.
"They are unable to run the party. Those who cannot run a party, how can they run this country?" he was quoted by news agency ANI.
Continuing to disregard the Congress' apology for its tweet, he then slammed the party for "the lowest standard of politics", while declaring "the people of India love Prime Minister Modi".
"This is the lowest standard of politics. They have used derogatory remarks against the Prime Minister... Not only do the people of India love Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even the President of America also respects Narendra Modi," he said.
The exchange of crude swipes about senior leaders was triggered by a tweet from the Congress' Karnataka handle that referred to the Prime Minister as an "angootha-chhaap", or illiterate person.
Responding to the criticism, Mr Shivakumar yesterday tweeted: "I have always believed that civil and parliamentary language is a non-negotiable pre-requisite for political discourse."
"An uncivil tweet made by a novice social media manager through the Karnataka Congress official Twitter handle is regretted and stands withdrawn," he said.
I have always believed that civil and parliamentary language is a non-negotiable pre-requisite for political discourse. An uncivil tweet made by a novice social media manager through the Karnataka Congress official Twitter handle is regretted and stands withdrawn.— DK Shivakumar (@DKShivakumar) October 18, 2021
That tweet and Mr Kateel's swipes have been added to a pile of acrimonious exchanges between the two parties in the run-up to by-polls for two assembly constituencies on October 30.
For the BJP, it is important that it wins its first electoral test since Basavaraj Bommai replaced BS Yediyurappa as Chief Minister in July.
The Congress, aiming to win both seats - one belonged to the Janata Dal Secular and the other to the BJP - has been campaigning aggressively but has lately made some glaring missteps, including having two of its leaders recorded gossiping about Mr Shivakumar; they were alleging bribe-taking.
With input from ANI