The Congress on Friday hit back at the Bharatiya Janata Party over its criticism of Rahul Gandhi for calling the Indian Union Muslim League "completely secular", saying the party he referred to was different from the Muslim League, for which the BJP has "more love" and whose leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah was hailed by LK Advani.
The opposition party also said that it would like to remind the BJP that Hindu Mahasabha president Syama Prasad Mookerjee aligned with Jinnah's Muslim League to form the government in Bengal during the British rule.
At an interaction with the media at the National Press Club in Washington, Gandhi was asked about being in alliance with the IUML in Kerala while talking about secularism, to which he responded by saying, "Muslim League is a completely secular party. There is nothing non-secular about the Muslim League."
Gandhi's remark drew a sharp response from the BJP as its leaders alleged that the Kerala party is guided by the same mindset which was behind Jinnah's All India Muslim League.
In a tweet, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, "Shyama Prasad Mookerjee was in league with the Muslim League in the government in Bengal when (Mahatma) Gandhiji launched Quit India movement. SPM was singularly responsible for the partition of Bengal."
He also tagged a tweet by Congress leader Amitabh Dubey who had slammed BJP IT department head Amit Malviya for his criticism of Gandhi, saying "You're confusing the Kerala-based IUML he is talking about with Jinnah's Muslim League that took Savarkar's two-nation theory to its logical conclusion."
"The same Muslim League with whom BJP founder SP Mukherjee and Hindu Mahasabha formed coalition governments in Bengal, Sindh, NWFP (North-West Frontier Province)," Dubey said.
Congress' media department head Pawan Khera hit out at the BJP over its criticism and said the BJP-RSS have more knowledge of Pakistan's politics and Jinnah's Muslim League as they share a historical jugalbandi.
"Those with entire political science (degree) should have some knowledge of the politics of their country," Khera said.
He said Muhammad Ismail, the founder of the Indian Union Muslim League, was a member of the Constituent Assembly and during the war with China, he had offered his son, Miyan Khan, to join the Indian Army.
He said the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had sent IUML leader E Ahamed to Geneva to represent India.
"IUML established the largest Sanskrit University in Kerala. The BJP also made an alliance with IUML for Nagpur Municipal Corporation. The omniscient Vishwaguru of WhatsApp nursery, please enrich your knowledge," Khera said in a tweet in Hindi.
Asked about the BJP's criticism of Gandhi's remark, Gourav Vallabh said at a press conference at the AICC headquarters here that the party Gandhi referred to is IUML which is a registered political party in India.
"Is a registered party in India not a secular party? Does the Election Commission get ineligible parties registered? I would like to remind the BJP that this is not the party with which Syama Prasad Mookerjee aligned to form the government in Bengal," Vallabh said.
"That Muslim League of Jinnah is different, with which you formed the government. Rahul Gandhi has not talked about that Muslim League but the thing is that you have more love for that party, therefore, you think that the party being talked about is the one whose founder was Jinnah," he said, slamming the BJP.
Asserting that Gandhi had talked about the Indian Union Muslim League of Kerala, Vallabh said he would like to tell the BJP people that the former Congress chief was not talking about the Muslim League of Jinnah on whose mausoleum in Pakistan, BJP co-founder LK Advani had hailed him and called him "secular".
"In the BJP's mind only that party is there. It is an old friendship as they formed the government in Bengal. Many prime ministers of India, many diplomats, writers, sportspersons, politicians have gone to Pakistan but who went to Jinnah's mausoleum," he said.
In 2005, Advani had visited Pakistan and praised the neighbouring country's founder Jinnah, triggering criticism from within his own party.
Hitting out at the BJP leaders for their criticism, Vallabh said, "So all those who today are talking about IUML should go and ask Advani ji. We have talked about IUML.
The Muslim League that is close to your heart is Jinnah's Muslim League because you formed a coalition government with it in Bengal," he said.