Poll strategist Prashant Kishor hit out at the "largely absent" Congress this morning as fierce protests against the controversial citizenship law continue to sweep the country. Prashant Kishor, whose consultancy firm Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) has been widely credited for helping the BJP to power in 2014, was responding to a statement by interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, in which she accused the centre of "brute repression" of protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA.
"Congress is not on (the) streets and its top leadership has been largely absent in the citizens' fight against CAA-NRC. The least (the) party could do i(s) to make ALL Congress CMs join other CMs who have said that they will not allow NRC in their states," Mr Kishor wrote.
"Or else these statements (referring to those by Ms Gandhi) means nothing," he added.
In a televised address on Friday Sonia Gandhi slammed the BJP government that "has chosen to use brute force to suppress dissent". "This is unacceptable in a democracy," she said.
Congress is not on streets and its top leadership has been largely absent in the citizens' fight against CAA-NRC— Prashant Kishor (@PrashantKishor) December 21, 2019
The least party could do it to make ALL Congress CMs join other CMs who have said that they will not allow NRC in their states. Or else these statements means nothing https://t.co/EWJLyc3kgR
Senior Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have been relatively quiet so far; Ms Gandhi Vadra lead a protest at Delhi's iconic India Gate last week and Mr Gandhi has faced criticism for an ill-timed trip to South Korea at the same time.
Nevertheless, Congress and other opposition leaders have been quick to hit back at Prashant Kishor.
Lavanya Ballal, a national social media coordinator for the Congress, reminded him of the role he played in helping Prime Minister Narendra Modi's BJP to power in five years ago and accused him of having no "spine".
"What does one do when your spine is weaker than cartilage- attack Congress. @PrashantKishor You enabled this regime to capture power through your PR, shame on you that you have no spine to speak up against the BJP," she wrote.
What does one do when your spine is weaker than cartilage- attack Congress.@PrashantKishor You enabled this regime to capture power through your PR ,shame on you that you have no spine to speak up against the bjp. https://t.co/4CcAuXPCnk— Lavanya Ballal | ಲಾವಣ್ಯ ಬಲ್ಲಾಳ್ (@LavanyaBallal) December 21, 2019
The Rashtriya Janata Dal, which is in the opposition in Bihar where Mr Kishor is working with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United (JDU) - a key BJP ally at the centre - has also responded. In a strongly-worded tweet the RJD accused him of having "sold his soul".
"You sold (your) soul, WHAT (has) ur Turncoat leader, party president and Chameleon Bihar CM has done regarding it? If you have problem with it they why don't you resign from JDU. Nitish Kumar said in a TV interview that you are a BJP agent forcefully appointed as Nitish's VP," the RJD raged.
You sold soul, WHAT the HELL & MESS ur Turncoat leader, party president and Chameleon Bihar CM has done regarding it?— Rashtriya Janata Dal (@RJDforIndia) December 21, 2019
If you have problem with it they why don't you resign from JDU. Nitish Kumar said in a TV interview that you are a BJP agent forcefully appointed as Nitish's VP. https://t.co/WJmnDoTvsQ
Mr Kishor, whose wife is from Assam, has openly opposed JDU support for the CAA. On Thursday he told NDTV the CAA-National Register of Citizens (NRC) combination was discriminatory.
"The party (referring to JDU) has always said that there is no need for NRC in Bihar and he (Chief Minister Nitish Kumar) assu red me there is no reason to change this stance," he said.
His comments provoked Nitish Kumar into issuing a sharp notice through one of his ministers.
Violent protests have broken out across the country - particularly in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi - on an almost daily basis since parliament passed the CAA last week.
Fresh violence hit Uttar Pradesh's Rampur this afternoon, hours after protests in the national capital, which has been simmering since cops cracked down on a march by Jamia Millia Islamia students, left dozens injured and a mob set a private vehicle on fire.
The CAA seeks to make minorities from three Muslim-dominated countries Indian citizens if they fled to India because of religious persecution. It is the first time religion has been the test of citizenship in the country. The government says it will help minorities but critics say it is discriminates against Muslims and violates secular principles of the Constitution.