The BJP today accused the Congress of trying to create a "partition-like situation", with the opposition party hitting back by saying that the saffron party was the one seeking to polarise people and divert attention from "real issues".
In a sharp attack on Rahul Gandhi over his remarks reported in an Urdu daily that the Congress was a Muslim party, senior BJP leader Nirmala Sitharaman said he should clarify his comments and that he was on a course-correction.
"This needs to be clarified, probably he wants to say that to call himself a Janeu-dhari (a Hindu who wears the sacred thread) was wrong, probably he wants to say now he is Muslim dhari," she told a press conference.
The Congress has dismissed the media report as a "rumour" and asserted that it was a party of 132 crore Indians.
Sitharaman alleged that the Congress was "playing up the card of religion and communal division" and it may lead to the kind of division and communal disharmony which prevailed during the partition in 1947.
She said there is a pattern in which Congress leaders such as Shashi Tharoor are making statements, aimed to divide the the country on religious lines.
"The Congress party's professing to minority appeasement has now reached a crescendo," she said.
Sitharaman also said that the opposition party would be solely responsible if any disharmony plays out between now and 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Hitting back at Sitharaman's remarks, Congress spokesperson Sushmita Dev said it was expected that with just days to go for the monsoon session of Parliament, the defence minister would take up issues which are "unnecessarily to create a controversy and move away people's attention from real issues".
"I request Nirmala Sitharaman ji that till today you have not borthered to answer to the nation about the 58,000 crore deal of Rafale which is the biggest scam. If you have the courage in this monsoon session please make a suo moto statement and reply to the nation that how the defence ministry has conducted the biggest scam under your nose," Dev said.
The Congress as a party has fought for the freedom of India, it has has stood by the Constitution and is a party that is inclusive, she asserted
"We request you (Sitharaman) that do not try to polarize through your press meet. Because, it is the only thing, the Prime Minister of India finally falls back on before every election, whether he talks about 'Shamshan and Kabristan', whether you talk about giving electricity during 'Diwali aur Ramzan'.
"This has never been the politics of the Congress and get ready for some real answers in the coming Monsoon session," she said.
Earlier, Congress' communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala, responding to a question on the Urdu daily report, said when governance fails, rumours take precedence.
"When the government is on the path of lying, then rumours become the main policy of the government," he told reporters.
No matter how much they try and spread rumours, Prime Minister Modi's supporters cannot hide his misrule.
Noting that the history of the Indian national movement and the history of the Congress are well documented, Surjewala said the Congress is a party of 132 crore Indians, and will remain so forever.
The Urdu daily had reported that the Congress chief who met Muslim intellectuals on Wednesday told them that the Congress was a party of Muslims.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)