Union Minister Smriti Irani on Friday credited Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman's return within two days of his capture by Pakistan to the "valour of an RSS volunteer", in an apparent reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Today, the Sangh can be proud of the fact that a son of India is returning to India in 48 hours due to the parakram (valour) of a swayamsevak (RSS volunteer)," news agency PTI quoted Ms Irani as saying at an event held to launch BJP leader Sudhanshu Mittal's book, RSS: Building India Through Sewa. Modi was an RSS worker before he joined the BJP.
Mr Irani's remark is expected to further rile opposition parties, who have accused the BJP of politicising the Pulwama terror attack and the air strikes that followed to make electoral gains in the Lok Sabha polls. Leaders of 21 opposition parties had said on Wednesday that while there was little doubt about their support for the armed forces in the back of India-Pakistan tensions, they did not approve of "leaders of the ruling party" indulging in "blatant politicisation of the armed forces' sacrifices".
They were referring to PM Modi's criticism of the Congress at the inauguration of the National War Memorial in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, which led to the death of 40 CRPF soldiers.
PTI quoted RSS joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabole as saying at the event that the entire nation was with Wing Commander Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistan on Wednesday during an engagement between Indian and Pakistan fighter jets, and underlined the "upsurge of patriotism" in the country due to the prevailing situation.
Mr Mittal said his book presents facts about the RSS and its efforts, while seeking to dispel a number of myths about it. The organisation has often faced vicious criticism even though it is -- in reality -- the biggest "nation-building" entity, the news agency quoted him as saying.
(With inputs from PTI)