Launching a strong counter-attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Congress on Saturday said his speech in Uttar Pradesh reflected the ruling party’s “nervousness” about an imminent defeat.

“The Prime Minister is so consumed by his desire to take revenge on Rahul Gandhi that he has become blind like ‘Dhritarashtra’ and has started spreading hate,” said Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala.

His comment was in response to Mr. Modi’s statement in Uttar Pradesh where he had referred to news reports that quoted Mr. Gandhi as saying that the Congress was a Muslim party.

At a briefing at the party headquarters, Pramod Tiwari, Rajya Sabha member from Uttar Pradesh, said, “If we start calling you [Modi] by your various nicknames popular among the public as well as on social media, you will not feel good. So please think before you call senior leaders of other parties names. We will have to forget the dignity of your post the way you have done.”

“We would have to rake up all the names by which the common people call a person who does not fulfil his promises, who is all words and little action,” he said.

Mr. Tiwari said after getting 73 Lok Sabha and 323 Assembly seats, people of Uttar Pradesh wanted to hear about the BJP’s development track record.

“The public had been expecting to hear from the Prime Minister about jobs, employment, farmers’ dues, about the reopening of closed factories and mills. But he spoke none of that because he has nothing to show on the ground,” Mr. Tiwari said.

The Congress leader said that while the Prime Minister in Azamgarh claimed that his government was fighting for the rights of Muslim women, he did not mention incidents of rape in the State, including the one where BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar is involved.

The Congress also accused the Prime Minister of taking credit for development work done by earlier State governments and the UPA.

Chidambaram’s salvo

Earlier, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram attacked Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for her press conference on Friday, where she raised the issue of “Congess being claimed a Muslim party”.

Taking to Twitter, Mr. Chidambaram said, “After taming Pakistan, eliminating terrorism, stopping infiltration and acquiring Rafale aircraft, the Defence Minister has all the time in the world to inquire into the religious affiliations of parties and persons!”

“The Defence Minister says there are ‘plans to incite riots in the run-up to Lok Sabha election’. She should share her secret (?) information with the Home Minister,” Mr. Chidambaram added.

On Thursday, an Urdu daily had reported that Mr. Gandhi, who met Muslim intellectuals on Wednesday, had told them that the Congress was a Muslim party.

But on Saturday, one of the invitees, Professor S. Irfan Habib, denied any such conversation took place. “Taken aback to hear that Rahul Gandhi is being accused of calling the Congress a Muslim party in a meeting where I was present. It seems to have malicious intent, no such issue came up at all,” he said.

“When Governance fails, Rumour rules!,” Mr. Surjewala said at a press conference on Friday.

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