Strongly condemning the heckling of opposition chief ministers at events featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress on Thursday alleged that an "orchestrated" and "well-planned conspiracy by BJP and RSS" is on which is "hurting" the spirit of federalism.
"Prime Minister Modi is guilty not by default but by design for encouraging this. In a planned way, BJP and RSS workers insult chief ministers in the states which the prime minister visits.
"No prime minister in the past has behaved in this insulting a manner with any chief minister anywhere," said Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma.
"It must be conveyed with clarity that what is happening is unacceptable. They (BJP) should realise that others may have lost out in the elections but they are not without leaders or party cadres.
"It's not that Congress party, leaders and workers are not capable of doing that. But Congress does not believe in resorting to similar tactics as it respects the institution which is the post of the prime minister. That should not be construed as any kind of weakness," he warned.
Charging that the country's "federal spirit is being assaulted under the leadership of the prime minister", Sharma said that those those responsible for it are Modi, RSS and BJP, who "do not accept the existence of any other ideology and party".
Party sources indicated that as it is clear that such acts are being carried out deliberately in poll-bound states to paint Congress and other opposition chief ministers in poor light, it will raise the issue of "insult" of such constitutional figures in a big way through public rallies beginning with the one scheduled for August 24 in Panipat.
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda is likely to launch a blistering attack on BJP and Prime Minister Modi as Congress may project the booing of Hooda on Tuesday as an "insult to Haryana".
Party sources said that with Hooda asserting that he will not attend public functions with Modi in the future and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan skipping an event in Nagpur with the Prime Minister, "the message has gone" out about the issue.
Congress has deliberately broadened the ambit of its attack on BJP in the matter, not limiting it to only Congress chief ministers and asking all "opposition" chief ministers to not attend Modi's public functions.
"Opposition chief ministers should not go to such public functions of the prime minister beyond meeting the protocol requirements. The prime minister who talked about strengthening federalism and taking states along is himself weakening the federal structure.
"He used to say that the team of prime minister and chief ministers will bring development but, in this case, the 'captain' is demeaning the other members of the team," said party general secretary and in-charge for Haryana, Shakeel Ahmed.
However, Congress remained non-committal about whether party president Sonia Gandhi has sent any missive to the chief ministers to avoid the prime minister's functions. The party said nothing of the sort is required to be conveyed as the Congress chief ministers are mature, experienced politicians.
Speaking separately, AICC general secretary Ambika Soni said, "The entire Congress party is of the opinion that we will not tolerate any such insult. Whatever they (the chief ministers) have done is right. We are fully behind them."
She said it was not a big thing for Congress to push 500 supporters to "humiliate" Modi at such meetings, but that would affect the dignity of the post.
Targeting the prime minister over the issue, she said that no one has the right to "humiliate" duly elected chief ministers by "inciting" supporters and said that Modi should immediately ask his partymen to desist from such acts.
"This is a well-thought out plan, a conspiracy... If the prime minister was serious, he should have sent a directive to his partymen immediately to stop doing all this," Soni said.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari alleged that BJP cadres are "deployed to humiliate" public representatives belonging to Congress in an "orchestrated" manner.
The reactions from Congress came on a day when Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren of JMM was heckled by crowds in the presence of Prime Minister Modi at a function in Ranchi following similar scenes faced in recent days by the Congress chief ministers of Maharashtra and Haryana.