The Congress is yet to respond on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's challenge to fight the Lok Sabha election in Delhi in the name of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. But PM Modi's comment on Rajeev Gandhi, which outraged the opposition leaders, featured prominently in Rahul Gandhi's first rally in Delhi ahead of the election. The national capital votes on May 12 -- for which the Congress is contesting all seven seats, setting up a triangular battle with the ruling Aam Aadmi Party and the BJP.
Mr Gandhi, who had countered PM Modi's comment with a controlled tweet, offering a hug and a warning about karma, today said he only has "love" for PM Modi, even if he spews hatred for his family.
"He is the prime minister of the country, but insults a martyr (Rajiv Gandhi). I told him whatever hatred you have for me...you can belittle me, you can say whatever you say about my father, mother, grandfather, grandmother. Whatever hatred you direct against me, I will only return it with love," Mr Gandhi was quoted by news agency PTI as saying.
PM Modi's comment that former Rajiv Gandhi -- Rahul Gandhi's father -- had died as "corrupt number 1", had drawn huge criticism from the opposition leaders. Today, the Prime Minister again cited the Congress chief's father to attack the party.
"I challenge Congress party, the family of dynasts, their courtiers, their minions... If you have the guts, fight the Delhi polls for the honour of that former PM of the Congress, who had serious allegations against him and for whom you have been shedding tears for the last two days," PM Modi said today at a rally.
While there is no official response, a delegation of senior Congress leaders met Election Commission officials today to demand that PM Modi be banned from campaigning as penalty for denigrating Rajiv Gandhi. So far, the Prime Minister has received clean chits from the Commission for various remarks which the Congress said were a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.
In the 2014 elections, the BJP had won all seven seats of Delhi, even though Mr Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party won a spectacular victory a year later. This time, despite much nudging from opposition leaders like Sharad Pawar and Mamata Banerjee, the Congress and AAP were unable to form an alliance.
At the rally today, Mr Gandhi reiterated that Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal took a "U-turn" when he was offered four seats in the national capital.
"I clearly told Kejriwal-ji that we have to win all seven seats in Delhi. You contest on four seats and we will contest on three. First, he agreed. Even I concurred with the proposal. But then he brought in talks on Haryana and Punjab. Then he took a U-turn," Mr Gandhi was quoted by news agency PTI as saying.
Mr Kejriwal has blamed the Congress for the failure of the alliance talks, saying the party wants the BJP to win in Delhi.
Delhi will vote in the sixth phase of the election on Sunday. The counting of votes will take place on May 23.
With inputs from PTI