The BJP's ideological parent, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is a "fundamentalist" and "fascist" organisation, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has said. The remarks drew a sharp counter-attack from the ruling party, which alleged that the Congress MP was in the grip of Maoist and anarchist elements.
Speaking at a session organised by Chatham House, a London-based think tank, Mr Gandhi yesterday said various institutions in India are currently under threat and that the RSS has "captured all of India's institutions".
"The nature of the democratic contest in India has completely changed. The reason it has changed is because one organisation called the RSS, a fundamentalist, fascist organisation, has captured pretty much all of India's institutions," he said.
Mr Gandhi said the RSS can be called a "secret society" that is built along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organisation banned in several countries for terror links. "The idea is to use the democratic contest to come to power and then to subvert the democratic contest afterwards," Mr Gandhi said.
Speaking at the same event, he also said that the BJP likes to believe that it will always be in power.
Speaking on what led to the Congress' failure in the 2014 election, when the BJP came to power, he said the UPA government missed the shift in political discourse from the rural to the urban space. "We were focusing a lot on the rural space and we missed the ball in the beginning on the urban space. That is a fact. Those things are there. But to say that the BJP is in power and the Congress gone, that is actually a ridiculous idea," he said.
The BJP's counterattack was led by senior leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, who tore into the Congress MP, accusing him of defaming the country abroad.
Mr Prasad wondered what happens to Rahul Gandhi when he travels abroad. "You forget all Parliamentary norms, political propriety, shame, everything. He is saying that we don't let him speak. He travelled across the country during his Yatra, spoke everywhere. He spoke in Parliament against an industrial institution, made such nasty remarks on the Prime Minister. Didn't he get to speak?"
The BJP said the Congress was "losing in India and flying abroad".
Pointing to the results of the recently held elections in three Northeastern states, Mr Prasad said the party was routed this time in a region that used to be its stronghold.
"The people of the country neither listen to him, nor understand him, so he goes abroad and laments, claiming that India's democracy is in danger. This is very shameful."
“It is our clear conviction that Rahul Gandhi is completely in the grip of Maoist thought-processes and anarchist elements,” Mr Prasad said.
Hitting back at Mr Gandhi's comparison between the RSS and the Muslim Brotherhood, he said, "This is condemnable. RSS is a nationalist organisation that has been serving the country since 1925. We are proud of being swayamsevaks."
Mr Prasad said that the Sangh was criticised by Rahul Gandhi's great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru, grandmother Indira Gandhi, father Rajiv Gandhi, and now by him. "See where the RSS has reached, its influence now spans the country. And how your party has shrunk," he said, questioning if the Congress leader is aware of the Sangh's work across sectors, including education and tribal development.