Hours after Congress president Rahul Gandhi cited a technical glitch in the Vande Bharat Express during its first Varanasi-Delhi run to question the BJP's Make In India initiative, Union Minister Piyush Goyal took to Twitter on Saturday to dub his remark as an attack on the "hard work and ingenuity" of Indian workers.
According to a clarification issued by the Indian Railways, the country's fastest locomotive -- also called Train 18 -- was halted for over three hours early that morning because of a technical issue possibly caused due to an "external hit". Soon after, Mr Gandhi turned up on social media to question the viability of the initiative. "Modiji, I think Make in India needs a serious rethink. Most people feel it has failed. I assure you that we in the Congress are thinking very deeply about how it will be done," he tweeted.
Mr Goyal did not take long with his retort. "Such a shame that you choose to attack the hard work and ingenuity of Indian engineers, technicians and labourers. It is this mindset which needs a reset. 'Make In India' is a success and a part of crores of Indian lives. Your family had 6 decades to think, wasn't that enough?" he asked in a tweet.
His party followed it up with an even caustic jibe. "Just because of one minor glitch you are asking for a rethink on an initiative as critical as 'Make in India'. Do you realise how deeply India is rethinking about a consistent failure like you? P.S: Does your deep thinking involve outsourcing our manufacturing to Italy?" it tweeted from the @BJP4India handle.
During the first leg of its trip, the train ran from New Delhi to Varanasi in just eight hours -- as compared to the 12-13 hours it takes for the Shatabdi Express to cover the same distance. Its speed was capped at 130 kmph in view of the condition of the tracks, despite topping 180 kmph in trial runs.
However, on its way back, the Vande Bharat Express was forced to a halt about 194 km from Delhi on Saturday morning. The train resumed its journey after repairs, reaching the national capital hours after schedule.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had flagged off the train on Friday. It will launch commercial operations from Sunday, running five days a week.
The Congress had earlier crossed swords with Mr Goyal over a video of the Vande Bharat Express zooming along the tracks, with the former claiming that the Union Minister had deliberately posted a sped-up clip to give the impression of faster speed.