Union minister Jayant Sinha, who landed in a controversy for felicitating men convicted for killing a meat trader in Jharkhand, hit back at Congress boss Rahul Gandhi on Thursday, for what he called, taking the criticism against him to a personal level and dared Mr Gandhi to a "live debate" on the Ramgarh lynching case. In Hindi, or English.
"Let him not hide behind his social media handles and practice shoot-and-scoot politics," Mr Sinha said in a statement put out on social media
Mr Gandhi had tweeted his support for an online petition that asked the prestigious Harvard University to drop the union minister from its list of alumni.
Photographs of Mr Sinha garlanding the men convicted for killing meat trader Alimuddin Ansari, 55, were seen to support the vicious trend of violence in the name of cow protection, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi had strongly denounced.
The minister's father, Yashwant Sinha, had also tweeted his disapproval of his son's action.
Like other opposition parties, the Congress expectedly, had criticised Mr Sinha's actions in the harshest terms.
Mr Gandhi later followed up, with a tweet that asked people to sign a petition against the minister if the sight of the highly educated lawmaker "garlanding and honouring" convicted criminals disgusted them. The online petition asked Harvard University to drop Mr Sinha from its list of alumni.
In his comeback, the minister said the Congress president had taken the attack to a personal level, condemning "my education, values and humanity".
"I challenge him to a live debate in Hindi or English on the Ramgarh lynching case, If he thinks that my conduct is 'disgusting', then let's debate it in a civilized manner," Mr Sinha said.
Mr Sinha's statement, once again, also explained his stance on his decision to welcome the men convicted for Alimuddin Ansari's murder in Ramgarh last year.
Alimuddin Ansari, 55, was dragged out of his car in June last year and beaten to death by a mob that accused him of carrying beef.
In video footage accessed by the police, a local BJP leader is seen dragging the man out of the vehicle before the mob takes over.
Ansari died at the hospital. In March this year, 11 people were sentenced to life in jail for the murder by a trial court. Their appeals are pending before the high court which has suspended the sentence and released many of them on bail.
The seven men seen with the minister in photographs were among the 11.
The minister called the Ramgarh murder "distressing and terrible", underlining that "vigilantism is totally unacceptable".
Those who commit vigilantism and break the law should be fully punished, he said, rebutting the perception that he sympathized with the vigilantes "because I welcomed the Ramgarh convicts at my residence".
"I did not intend, in any way, to condone vigilantism, and I sincerely regret if that's the impression I gave," he said. But Mr Sinha, who has earlier faulted the trial court's verdict, asked people to study the court documents available in public domain "to form their own independent views on this case".
"Guilt can only be established through due process because the rule of law is supreme in our country," he said.