"Casteism is in the DNA of Bihar that is why more talk of casteism take place in the state," senior BJP leader Nitin Gadkari said on Saturday.
The comment has caused a furore in the state with leaders from major political parties lambasting him over the issue.
Gadkari had made the comment when he was asked why BJP leaders in Bihar were raising the issue of caste of Narendra Modi when the party claimed to be against casteism.
But even though the BJP leader corrected himself later and asked reporters to substitute the word politics for DNA, the damage had already been done.
Congress state vice-president and media in-charge Premchand Mishra said the "irresponsible" statement of Gadkari has brought to fore the anti-Bihari stand of the BJP and the party should seek forgiveness from the people of the state.
"The BJP is in alliance with parties like Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) which are known for their anti-Bihari stand. It was people like Gadkari who facilitated this alliance. His statement portrays the anti-Bihari mindset of the BJP and RSS and they should seek forgiveness from the people of Bihar," Mishra said.
"At first, the BJP projected Narendra Modi as a person belonging to extremely backward caste, now they are blaming the people of Bihar for indulging in casteism. People should not forget that BJP is a communal party with communal DNA," Mishra added.
JD-U also slammed Gadkari for issuing a statement which reeks of hatred towards the people of Bihar. It is also planning to complain to the Election Commission (EC) over the matter.
Talking to reporters, JD(U) state spokesperson Rajeev Ranjan said, "Gadkari has abused Bihar by giving such a statement. He has insulted the pride and honour of our people. We are going to submit a written complaint to the EC and will request it to take action against him and the BJP."
Ranjan also said the people of Bihar will not take this insult lying down and will "vote against the BJP in the coming phases of Lok Sabha elections to register their protest and anger".
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) attacked Gadkari and BJP saying that such statements go against the prestige of Bihar which has a rich past since the ancient times.
RJD state spokesperson Mritunjay Tiwary said, "It has become a fashion for the people of Maharashtra to abuse Bihar and Biharis. With Gadkari giving such a statement, the dual character of the BJP has been revealed. It should beg for forgiveness from the people here."
"Narendra Modi himself has mentioned his caste origins in his speeches at Purnia and Bikram in Bihar and now Gadkari is saying casteism is in the DNA of Bihar. He conveniently ignored this fact," Tiwary said.
With PTI inputs...