The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday slammed Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi as a 'failed dynast' and failed politician after he defended dynastic politics during a public event in the United States.
Within hours of Gandhi's speech, Union minister Smriti Irani blasted him at a press conference, saying his admission that the Congress had turned arrogant since 2012 was a 'big political confession' and a reflection on Sonia Gandhi, who was and remains its president.
"A failed dynast today chose to speak about his failed political journey in the US... the country (India) is not listening so he is speaking somewhere else," Irani said at a BJP press conference.
It must be the first time that a Congress vice president chose to taunt his party president and it is for the party to introspect on this, she said.
In his speech to students at the University of California in Berkeley, Gandhi also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of divisive politics and causing 'tremendous damage' to India's economy with 'reckless and dangerous' decisions like demonetisation and goods and services tax.
"The fact that Rahul Gandhi chose to belittle the prime minister is not a surprise but expected... It is an indication of his failed strategy. The people of the country where he leads a political party no longer support him so he is expressing his pain abroad," she said.
She also challenged him to a public debate 'without a handwritten script' over his criticism of the Modi government.
Irani, who had lost to Gandhi in Amethi in the last Lok Sabha poll and is seen as the BJP's nominee in the next election as well, described the US college as a 'platform of convenience' for the Congress leader.
Hitting out at him for his remarks on dynasties, Irani cited the examples of President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to argue that the top three constitutional positions were held by people with humble backgrounds.
This was evidence that merit, not dynasty, drove India's robust democracy, the Information and Broadcasting minister added.
Taking a dig at Gandhi's developmental vision for India, Irani said people should visit Amethi, his parliamentary constituency, to see how much development he had done.
She claimed that Gandhi had little awareness about the lack of propriety in criticising his country on foreign soil as he was driven by 'boosting his own image not patriotism'.
In an apparent reference to Gandhi's alleged meeting with the Chinese envoy in India during the Doklam stand-off, she said he had not spoken to the Indian diaspora or officials but chosen 'to converse with a foreign power'.
To Gandhi's criticism of the Modi government's handling of Kashmir, she accused him of indulging in politics and said it was the Nehru-Gandhi family which had passed on a 'legacy of challenges' to the country.
The minister also wondered if his leadership was defined by the BJP and not 'his own karma', responding to his claim that the saffron party used trolls to target him online.
Irani's criticism of Gandhi was echoed by her colleague, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
"Rahul Gandhi gets wisdom when he is outside India. There is a tradition of our country that we don't talk about domestic politics overseas. Despite being from a big family, Rahul Gandhi did not pay attention to this established tradition."
The Congress vice president keeps raising these issues and the country keeps rejecting them, the law minister said.
"Today again we have taken action in Kashmir, wiped the tears of people. Digital payments have grown with honesty due to demonetisation. India's digital economy is growing."
The problem with Rahul Gandhi, he added, was that he doesn't do his homework.
"I expected him to do his homework with sincerity when he is travelling overseas but he did not do it even when he is abroad."
IMAGE: Union minister Smriti Irani addresses a press conference at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Tuesday. Photograph: PTI Photo