Congress leader Manish Tewari on Sunday triggered a row with a twitter post using abusive language against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, evoking sharp reactions from the Bharatiya Janata Party and the twitterati demanding an apology from Sonia Gandhi.
Tewari is the second Congress leader after party general secretary Digvijaya Singh to come under fire for using foul language against Modi. Singh had recently retweeted a post which contained expletives against the prime minister.
In his post, Tewari wrote in Hindi in Roman script about how Modi "befooled" people and that, "Even Mahatma cannot teach MODI Deshbhakti (patriotism)".
He was responding to a remark made by a person on the micro blogging website that patriotism is in the DNA of Modi and even Mahatma Gandhi cannot teach him that. It was made in response to a short video clip put up by Tewari about a gaffe committed by Modi abroad when he had started walking even as the national anthem was being played.
Reacting sharply, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said a desperate Congress and its leaders have "lost their mental balance" after being rejected by people. He said they are using foul language against the prime minister as they have run out of logic to counter him.
"A depressed Congress has become an expired bubble of abuses. When they do not have logic they take to such cheap language. The Congress has been rejected by the people and since then its leaders have lost their mental balance. They are in need of urgent psychiatric treatment," Naqvi said.
He said it is unfortunate that they have forgotten the dignity and decorum politics requires while targeting the BJP and the prime minister.
"It shows the mental state of the Congress and its leaders and the Congress leadership under Sonia Gandhi should apologise for this," he said.
By using such language, leaders like Tewari will destroy whatever little support base the Congress has been left with, he said.
Another BJP leader Subramanian Swamy alleged that someone else is "orchestrating" Congress' abusive attack as Tewari has the reputation of being sober and sensitive.
"The only person I think who has the authority to make (such a remark) is Rahul Gandhi, who can say anything anytime.
"There is a genuine frustration in the Congress that despite all the policy failures that they are trying to point out the country is solidly with the BJP," he said.
The issue led to a major row on the social media with trolls targeting Tewari. A hashtag "#CongLeaderAbusesPM" was also used and evoked sharp reactions from twitterati.
As criticism mounted, Tewari took to the twitter to say he put out the video ostensibly showing PM walking while National Anthem was playing in response to someone's tweet and that he meant no offence to Modi.
"If brouhaha is over Hindi phrase in colloquial -used to describe idiocity ¬hing more. In this case of person who put PM over Mahatma," he said in a series of tweets.
BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said Sonia Gandhi and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi should tender apology for Tewary's action otherwise it would be construed that it had their tacit approval.
Another BJP spokesman Sambit Patra said since Tewari is the spokesperson of the party Sonia and Rahul needed to explain why he did so.
He used the words of Congress leader Jairam Ramesh to hit out at the Congress, saying "the Sultanate has gone but the Sultans still behave as if they are still Sultans".
Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had stirred a major controversy a few days ago by posting a tweet that used abusive language against the prime minister, prompting the BJP to demand an apology from the opposition party for the "filthy abuse".
Singh later disowned it, saying retweets are not endorsements, but the trolls did not spare him.
"Retweets are never endorsements. This is the basic principle of Twitter," he said after the controversy erupted.
I have said it is not mine. I have disowned it. I have not used those words," he clarified.