Senior Congress leader from Rajasthan C P Joshi on Friday apologised for his casteist remarks after party chief Rahul Gandhi disapproved of his comments and asked him to express regret, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party lodged a complaint with the Election Commission.
The BJP rejected Joshi's apology, saying the remarks 'insulted' Indian culture and the Hindu religion, and asked Gandhi to expel him from the Congress.
Addressing a election meeting in poll-bound Rajasthan on Thursday, Joshi had reportedly said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP MP Uma Bharti and Hindu activist Sadhvi Ritambhara are from 'lower castes' and know nothing of Hinduism.
He had said it is the Brahmins who are learned and know of Hinduism.
"The comments made by the Congress leader (Joshi) based on caste, section and religion in an election rally are violation of the model code of conduct. So, a complaint has been lodged with the Election Commission," BJP Rajasthan election cell convenor, Nahar Singh Maheshwari, said in a statement Jaipur.
Polls in Rajasthan are scheduled on December 7.
"There is fear of social unrest and hatred in society due to Joshi's comments, so the Election Commission should take strong action (against him) for making such a statement," he said.
Besides, telling Joshi to express regret, the Congress chief also asked other party leaders to refrain from making such statements which hurt any segment of society.
In a tweet in Hindi, Joshi said, "Respecting the principles of the Congress party and the sentiments of party workers, I feel sorry if my statement has hurt the feelings of any section of society."
Thursday night, he had posted his speech on Twitter and Facebook, saying, "I strongly condemn the fabricated use of my statement by BJP. To put all the speculation to rest, here is enclosed the clipping of the speech."
Gandhi disapproved of the Congress leader's comments in a tweet, saying Joshi's remarks do not reflect, and are contrary, to the ideals of the Congress party.
"C P Joshi's remark is contrary to the Congress party's ideals. Party leaders should not give such statement that hurts any segment of the society, he said.
'While respecting the Congress party's principles and the sentiments of party workers, I am sure Joshiji will realise his mistake. He should express regret over his remarks,' the Congress chief said on Twitter.
Joshi's remarks come ahead of Assembly elections in Rajasthan on December 7 and Madhya Pradesh on November 28, and have the potential of alienating lower caste voters from the party.
He has launched his poll campaign in Nathdrawa on Friday, where he is contesting as a Congress candidate.
The BJP rejected Joshi's apology and said Gandhi must take responsibility and express regret.
Stressing that Joshi had 'insulted the Indian culture as well as the Hindu religion", Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi accused the Congress of "dividing every religion for power'.
"The statement of Congress leader (Joshi) is baseless, wrong and condemnable. It reflects that the Congress doesn't know the history of Indian culture and Hindu religion," Trivedi said at a press conference in Jaipur.
Earlier, BJP leader and spokesperson Sambit Patra said, "What CP Joshi has done is target the prime minister based on his caste. It is not acceptable. If Rahul (Gandhi) ji has the guts, then remove CP Joshi now.... CP Joshi insulted Hindus while pretending to be one."
'Shocking statement by Congress leader CP Joshi....He even goes ahead to say that they belong to “lowly castes” who should not be speaking about Hinduism Appalling,' he said on Twitter.
Patra also said Congress leaders discuss things behind closed doors and it gets recorded, but when they get exposed, they ask people to apologise.
"Rahul Gandhi ji you have been caught red-handed. You should immediately sack CP Joshi, sack him within one hour," he demanded on Thursday night.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said party chief Gandhi is sensitive and if any of his colleague has given any statement then it does not reflect the party's ideology.