- Congress has slammed BJP for "claiming rights (over these two groups)".
- Mr Rao slammed the Congress for "distorting" his response to a question.
- He also accused Congress of having "betrayed and divided all sections".
BJP leader P Muralidhar Rao's comment about the brahmin and baniya communities being in "my pockets" have triggered a huge row in Madhya Pradesh, with the opposition Congress demanding an apology and slamming the ruling party for "claiming rights (over these two groups)".
Mr Rao, who is a BJP General Secretary and the party's state-in-charge, has countered by attacking the Congress for "distorting" his response - a complete version of which can be heard in a three-minute video that has been widely circulated - to a reporter's question.
The BJP leader also accused the Congress of having "betrayed and divided all sections", and singled the GOP out for "injustice" because "if STs are backward, the only reason is the Congress".
The contentious exchange took place between Mr Rao and some reporters at a press conference in Bhopal to announce the BJP's focus on marginalised communities - "not as vote banks, but to address their concerns, like backwardness, (un) employment and (lack of) education".
A reporter pointed out the focus on certain communities ran contrary to the BJP's much-vaunted political tagline is "sabka saath, sabka vikas (with all, for everyone's development)".
To this Mr Rao initially replied: "Listen... listen... in one pocket I have brahmins and in another I have baniyas..." and then the gathered reporters started throwing questions at him.
"When the number of people belonging to certain sections was higher (i.e., their numbers within the BJP was greater), people used to say the party belongs to them. When there were brahmins you called us brahmin party... when there were baniyas, you called us baniya party..." Mr Rao explained.
Mr Rao then admonishes the reporters for not listening to him.
"I am saying our party was started for everyone. We are working to add more people (as members and workers) from SC/ST communities after finding their numbers lower. We are inducting as is needed for representation. We are reaching out to all... to make the BJP a party for every group," he said.
"This means we are not leaving out brahmins or baniyas or any group. This is not just social... even territorial. Earlier you called us Delhi party, then gully party. Now we are also going to villages and bastis. We are emerging in a true sense as a national party," Mr Rao declared.
The remarks provoked a furious response from the Congress and former Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who accused BJP leaders of becoming "arrogant due to power".
"This is an insult as the BJP is claiming its right over them. What kind of respect is given to these classes whose leaders played an important role in building the BJP? BJP leaders have become arrogant due to power," he said, calling on the party to apologise to these communities.