With several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders accusing him of "eulogising" Pervez Musharraf in his condolence message, senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Monday asked if the former Pakistan president was anathema to all patriotic Indians, why did the then BJP-led government negotiate a ceasefire with him in 2003 and sign a joint statement in 2004.
Tharoor's remarks came after several BJP leaders accused the Congress of "Pakistan parasti (worship)" and Union minister Jyoritiraditya Scindia asked if this was part of the "Haath Se Haath Jodo Abhiyan" with enemies.
"An Indian 'national' party's leader first casts doubts on our soldiers' act of bravery in Pulwama," Scindia said in an apparent reference to Congress leader Digvijaya Singh's remarks recently.
"Then another one eulogises Pervez Musharraf who was responsible for the Kargil war. Haath se haath jodo abhiyaan with enemies?" Scindia tweeted on Monday.
The Congress has launched the 'Haath Se Haath Jodo Abhiyan' to spread the message of Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Apparently responding to the criticism by the BJP leaders, Tharoor tweeted, "Question to BJP leaders frothing at the mouth: if Musharraf was anathema to all patriotic Indians, why did the BJP Government negotiate a ceasefire with him in 2003 & sign the joint Vajpayee-Musharraf statement of 2004?"
Was he not seen as a credible peace partner then, the former minister of state for external affairs asked.
In his condolence post on Twitter, Tharoor said former Pakistan president General (retd) Musharraf, who died on Sunday, was "once an implacable foe of India" but became a "real force for peace" between 2002-2007.
His remarks drew the BJP's ire which accused his party of "eulogising" the architect of the Kargil War.
However, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy tweeted that the death of former Pakistan President Gen Musharraf is sorrowful for those like him who knew him personally.
"He came to power in Pakistan through a coup but was always anxious to find a way to peace with India. Of course bottom line is he was a Pakistani," Swamy tweeted on Monday.
Pakistan's former military ruler Musharraf died on Sunday in Dubai after battling an incurable disease. He was 79.
"'Pervez Musharraf, Former Pakistani President, Dies of Rare Disease': once an implacable foe of India, he became a real force for peace 2002-2007," Tharoor said in a tweet Sunday.
"I met him annually in those days at the @un & found him smart, engaging & clear in his strategic thinking. RIP," the former Union minister said.
Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar slammed Tharoor for his tweet.
"Nothing like a proper military thrashing for Fatcat Pak Dictator Generals to become a 'force for peace' and develop 'clear strategic thinking'. Notwithstanding many lives lost n Intl laws violated n harm caused all around, these Generals will have their admiring fans in India (sic)," Chandrasekhar said.
In another tweet, he said, "That a former Cong Foreign Min (a party that refused to celebrate Kargil Vijay Diwas till 2010) wud think that a Pak General who inflicted terror, a backstabbing conflict and tortured our Soldiers in violation of every Intl law, wud be a 'force for peace' - best describes Cong (sic)."
Later Sunday, apparently responding to the criticism by BJP leaders, Tharoor tweeted, "I was raised in an India where you are expected to speak kindly of people when they die."
"Musharraf was an implacable enemy & was responsible for Kargil but he did work for peace with India, in his own interest, 2002-7. He was no friend but he saw strategic benefit in peace, as did we," the Congress leader said.
Tagging Tharoor's earlier tweets, BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla said, "Pervez Musharraf architect of Kargil, dictator, accused of heinous crimes who considered Taliban & Osama as 'brothers' & 'heroes' who refused to even take back bodies of his own dead soldiers is being hailed by Congress! Are you surprised? Again, Congress ki pak parasti!"
BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia also slammed Tharoor, saying, "Sharm ek Sheikh to Sharm Kar Shashi. Misplaced priorities of a former external affairs minister."
"Congress eulogising a person who attacked our country during Kargil. Indians revere martyrs Capt Vikram Batra, Lt Manoj Pandey, Grn Yogendra Yadav, Rifleman Sanjay Kumar not Pervez," he said.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi tweeted, "He may have been a state head but he was responsible for the Kargil war which killed 100s of Indians by stabbing us in the back after friendships talk. All of India should remember him as he was - a murderer."
Musharraf, who lived in a self-imposed exile in the UAE to avoid criminal charges against him in Pakistan, died at the American Hospital in Dubai.
He was suffering from amyloidosis, a rare disease caused by a build-up of an abnormal protein called amyloid in organs and tissues throughout the body, according to his family.
Musharraf was born on August 11, 1943 in Delhi.
He assumed the post of Chief Executive after imposing martial law in the country in 1999 and served as the president of Pakistan from 2001 to 2008.