Union minister Nitin Gadkari has posted a sharp message after the Congress seized a comment he made on Sunday and projected it as an attack on his own party BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a tweet citing an NDTV report, Nitin Gadkari said "cheap politics" has become the identity of the country's oldest party.
"It is unfortunate that cheap politics has become the identity of the oldest party. Congress politics has been reduced to word play and spreading lies. This party is breaking its own record in politics of spite and thinks it is great," Nitin Gadkari tweeted.
The back-and-forth started after Nitin Gadkari's comments at a public meeting on Sunday: "We do not believe in casteism... I do not know about you but there is no place for caste in our five districts because I have warned everybody that if anyone talks about caste, I will thrash him."
Mr Gadkari represents Nagpur Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra.
The Madhya Pradesh Congress had tweeted NDTV Khabar's report on the minister's comment and said Mr Gadkari had once again "directly attacked" Narendra Modi and the BJP. "Gadkari Ji has spoken out against the politics of religion - a policy followed by the BJP. When will you thrash those who ask for votes in the name of Hanuman Ji's religion?" the Congress remarked.
The opposition party was referring to BJP leaders commenting on the caste of Lord Hanuman. Former BJP parliamentarian Savitri Bai Phule had called Lord Hanuman a Dalit. UP minister Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary had claimed Lord Hanuman was a "jat" based on the fact that this popular Hindu god has traits similar to the Jat community. A BJP councilor in Uttar Pradesh, Bukkul Nawab, said Hanuman was a Muslim based only on the name, saying names in Islam are similar to Hanuman, whether it is "Rehman, Ramzan, Farman...".
Mr Gadkari's comments over the past few weeks have provided much ammo to the Congress, which reads many of them as hidden messages against his party leadership or PM Modi. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had posted a comment taunting the Prime Minister after Mr Gadkari had said, "One who can't take care of his home... cannot manage the country." The minister was apparently advising a person who wanted to work for the BJP and had shared that he had closed his shop because it was not doing well, and that he had a wife and children.