Congress leader Ajoy Kumar has kicked off a controversy, saying that National Democratic Alliance's presidential candidate Droupadi Murmu represents a "very evil philosophy of India" and should not be made a "symbol of Adivasi", a remark which drew sharp reaction from the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Speaking to ANI on Tuesday, the Congress leader alleged that the condition of the Scheduled Castes has become "worse".
Congress-led Opposition parties former union minister Yashwant Sinha has fielded against Murmu for the presidential elections on July 18.
"It's not about Droupadi Murmu. Yashwant Sinha is also a good candidate and Murmu is also a decent person. But she represents a very evil philosophy of India. We should not make her a symbol of 'Adivasi'. We have President Ram Nath Kovind, (but still) Hathras happened. Has he said a word? The condition of Scheduled Castes has become worse," Kumar said.
If elected, Droupadi Murmu will be the first tribal President of India and the country's second female President.
She was the first woman governor of Jharkhand (from 2015 to 2021).
Born in a poor tribal family in a village of Mayurbhanj, a backward district in Odisha, Murmu completed her studies despite challenging circumstances.
Calling the presidential elections a "fight for the soul of the nation", the Congress leader said that all like-minded parties should vote for the Opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha.
"Creating symbols and fooling the people of India is what the Modi government is all about. This is a fight for the soul of the nation and all like-minded parties should vote for Yashwant Sinha," he said.
Droupadi Murmu was a national executive member of BJP's ST Morcha from 2013 to 2015 and served as BJP district chief of Mayurbhanj (West) in 2010 and 2013.
Between 2006 and 2009, she was chief of BJP's ST Morcha in Odisha. She was a member of the national executive of BJP ST Morcha from 2002 to 2009.
Hitting back at Kumar, BJP national spokesperson Shehzad Poonawala said the Congress has insulted Murmu.
"Ajoy kumar #Congress Droupadi Murmu represents a very evil philosophy so we should not make her as a symbol of "adivasi" After calling Droupadi ji "dummy candidate" (Puducherry Cong handle) now this! This is how Congress insults India's first woman tribal president candidate," Poonawala tweeted.
BJP's IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya wrote on Twitter, "At a time when the NDA, led by PM Modi, has announced Smt Draupadi Murmu, a woman from Adivasi samaj, as it's nominee for the President's office, a move that will significantly empower the Tribals, Congress leader calls her evil by association! Just because she is a Tribal. Shame."