Congress leaders Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Mallikarjun Kharge on Sunday flipped the BJP's pitch against Rahul Gandhi, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the BJP's caustic attacks against the Gandhi family and insulted his Kashmiri Pandit lineage.
Calling Rahul Gandhi the "son of a martyr", his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the BJP insulted him every day, not even sparing their Nehru-Gandhi family, as the Congress held a day-long demonstration across the country today to protest his disqualification from the Lok Sabha.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, the party general secretary, and Mr Kharge, the Congress chief, led a "satyagraha" outside Delhi's Raj Ghat after their protest request at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial was turned down by the police.
"You call my brother, the son of a martyr, a traitor and Mir Jafar. You insult his mother. Your Chief Minister says Rahul Gandhi doesn't know who his mother is. You insult my family every day. But no cases are filed," Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said.
"Your Prime Minister, in a parliament full of people, says 'why doesn't this family use the name Nehru name'. He insults the whole family of Kashmiri Pandits, and the custom of a son carrying forward the family's name after the death of his father," she said.
Countering the BJP's efforts to bill Mr Gandhi's remark which led to his defamation conviction and parliament disqualification as an insult to the Other Backward Class (OBC) community, Mr Kharge said, "Is Nirav Modi OBC? Is Mehul Choksi OBC? Is Lalit Modi OBC? They are fugitives."
"Rahul Gandhi only raised the issue of these fugitives fleeing with black money. The Congress will hold hundreds of such protests across the country. We will fight to preserve Freedom of Speech. I thank all opposition parties for standing with Rahul Gandhi," he said.
Top party leaders P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh, Salman Khursheed, Pramod Tiwari, Ajay Maken, Mukul Wasnik and Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary, were also seen at the protest. Delhi Police maintained a tight vigil in the area and banned large gatherings around Raj Ghat.
The Congress called Rahul Gandhi's disqualification a "conspiracy" to silence the leader, who has been dogged in his attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has been the de facto head of the main opposition party for nearly a decade.
A combative Rahul Gandhi yesterday hit out at the Prime Minister over his disqualification and used a VD Savarkar reference to answer why he didn't apologise over his remarks in London and during the defamation trial in which he was convicted.
"I have been disqualified as the Prime Minister is scared of my next speech. I have seen fear in his eyes. That's why they don't want me to speak in the Parliament," said the Congress leader.
"My name is not Savarkar. I am a Gandhi. I won't apologise," he said, referring to the right-wing ideologue who apologised to the British during the Independence movement after being jailed.
Mr Gandhi was disqualified on Friday, a day after he was found guilty of defamation by a court in Gujarat for a 2019 campaign trail remark seen as insulting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and billed by the BJP as one that degraded the entire Modi community.
The court also granted him bail and suspended the sentence for 30 days to allow him to appeal to a higher court. His lawyers vowed to appeal the verdict in a higher court.
The Lok Sabha Secretariat also declared his constituency in Kerala's Wayanad vacant. The Election Commission can now announce a special election for the seat.
The conviction and sentencing also bar him from contesting polls for eight years unless a higher court overrules it.