Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday led a fresh Bharatiya Janata Party offensive on the Congress over its leader Sam Pitroda's 'so what' remarks on 1984 anti-Sikh riots, saying it showed the 'character and arrogance' of the opposition party.
As his remarks kicked up a storm, Pitroda accused the BJP of twisting the three words in Hindi on the riots to 'distort facts, divide us (Congress) and hide their failures' and said things of the past are not relevant in this election.
Pitroda, a close aide of Rahul Gandhi and Overseas Congress' head, on Thursday said, 'hua to hua' (So what, it happened) about the anti-Sikh riots.
He made this remark in response to a question on the riots by a newsman in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh.
The BJP demanded that United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi apologise to the nation while ally Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife and union minister Harsimrat Kaur said the comments were 'disgraceful' and reflected the mindset of the Gandhis.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said it is a matter of disgrace that the party had no remorse over the Sikh killings and wondered if Rahul Gandhi would 'oust his Guru' for the remarks.
Latching on to Pitroda's remarks, Modi kept up his attack on the Congress while addressing a poll rally in Rohtak in Haryana.
"How Congress ran this country for 70 years, how their mind works, how they are filled with arrogance, they themselves yesterday summed this up in three words…
"Congress, which ruled for maximum period, has been so much insensitive and that is reflected by the three words spoken yesterday. These words have not been spoken just like that, these words are character and mentality and intentions of the Congress."
"And which were these words, these were 'hua to hua'," said Modi referring to Pitroda's remarks.
'Hua to hua,' Modi repeated a number of times during the course of his speech.
"We can very well understand arrogance of Congress and those who run it in these three words -- hua to hua," said Modi.
"Yesterday, one of the tallest leaders of the Congress speaking in a loud voice on 1984 said '84 ka danga hua to hua'.
"Do you know who this leader is, he is very close to the Gandhi family, he keeps meeting them on daily basis and is their biggest confidant.
"This leader was very good friend of Rajiv Gandhi and he is Guru of Congress 'naamdar' (dynast) president," he said.
"For them, they have no value for life, for them a human being is not a human being," said Modi.
Pitroda said the BJP is attacking Congress leaders with 'lies' because they cannot talk about their performance and have no vision to take India forward to inclusively growth and prosperity for all with focus on jobs, kids and more jobs.
He took to Twitter to explain his position over the remarks.
'I have noticed how BJP is again twisting three words from my interview to distort facts, divide us and hide their failures. Sad that they have nothing positive to offer.
'I acknowledged the pain of my Sikh brothers and sisters during difficult times in 1984 and deeply feel for the atrocities that happened.
'But these are things from the past that are not really relevant to this election which is all about what did Modi government do for the last five years. Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi will never target a group of people based on creed,' he said.
'Truth is being distorted, lies are being amplified through social media and targeted. People are systematically being intimidated. However, truth will always prevail and lies will be exposed. It is just a matter of time. Have patience.'
Meanwhile, the Congress distanced itself from Pitroda's statement, saying it was not the view of the party.
The party issued a statement over Pitroda's remark, saying, '...We continue to support the quest for justice for 1984 riot victims. Any opinion remark made by any individual to the contrary including Sam Pitroda is not the opinion of Congress party.'
'We believe that justice should be done to 1984 riots victims as also to 2002 Gujarat riots victims. We abhor violence of any kind, against any person or a group of people based on their caste, colour, region or religion. This is the essence of India,' the statement said.
Later in the evening, Pitroda said, "The statement I made was completely twisted, taken out of context because my Hindi isn't good. What I meant was 'jo hua wo bura hua', I couldn't translate 'bura' in my mind."
"What I meant was move on. We have other issues to discuss as to what the BJP government did and what it delivered. I feel sorry that my remark was misrepresented, I apologise."
"This has been blown out of proportion," Pitroda said.
Union minister and BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said the statement by Pitroda was 'irresponsible'.
"Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi must apologise for Sam Pitroda's irresponsible statement," he told reporters.
Javadekar said Rahul Gandhi's guide and Rajiv Gandhi's colleague Pitroda had made 'a very condemnable' remark in public discourse.
"Today, he has made an even a more dangerous statement. He says that I can acknowledge the pain of Sikh community, but it is not relevant today," he said.
Another Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Pitroda had rubbed salt into the wounds of the victims of the tragedy.
Sukhbir Badal asked Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh whether he would continue to remain with the Congress after the 'disgraceful' comments.
"Pitroda has been very close to the Gandhis since Rajiv Gandhi days and is still the principal advisor to Rahul Gandhi. His remarks reveal the mindset of the Gandhis...,"he said.
In another tweet, Harsimrat said, "Gandhi family's blue-eyed boy and Rajiv crony Sam Pitroda has admitted his boss orchestrated the 1984 Sikh genocide with his statement justifying the anti-human act by saying so what it happened."
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra at a press conference in Delhi in the presence of Nirpreet Kaur, a witness to the riots, said the language used by Pitroda is comparable only to the 'insensitive, inhuman' remark made by Rajiv Gandhi who in the aftermath of the 'genocide' said that 'when a big tree falls, the earth shakes'.
Members of the BJP and Akali Dal staged a protest in Amritsar against Pitroda's remarks.
With ANI inputs.