Hitting back at Bharatiya Janata Party chief JP Nadda for his criticism of Rahul Gandhi's remarks made in the United Kingdom, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge on Friday said those who are "anti-nationals" themselves must not preach his party about patriotism and must learn from it instead.
Kharge's attack came after Nadda slammed Gandhi over his recent comments made in the United Kingdom on the state of Indian democracy, charging him with becoming a "permanent part of the toolkit" working against India.
Kharge said the Bharatiya Janata Party is making such allegations to hide and divert attention from the "horrifying unemployment, backbreaking price rise and the scam of its 'best friend'".
Asked about Nadda calling Gandhi "anti-national", Kharge told reporters, "They are anti-nationals from before. Even at the time of independence, they (BJP people) did not participate in the movement to get freedom for the country. Those who are anti-nationals themselves are calling others anti-national."
In a series of tweets, Kharge said those who did not contribute even an iota in the freedom struggle are the real "anti-nationals".
"Modi ji himself has gone to six-seven countries and said on foreign soil that 'people of India are saying that what sin did we commit that we were born in India'. Such a person is calling us anti-national?" he asked in a tweet.
Accusing Modi of insulting the citizens of the country, Kharge called on the prime minister to apologise.
He said the Congress strongly condemns Nadda's remarks, adding that the BJP chief should know that Modi went to China, the United States, South Korea and "insulted the citizens of India".
"Modi ji should apologise. There is no question of our apologising," he added.
Lauding Gandhi, Kharge said someone who talks about democracy and shows concern over it cannot be an anti-national and is a "true patriot".
"If Rahul Gandhi ji gets a chance to speak in Parliament, we will give a befitting reply to these allegations of the BJP," he said.
Talking to reporters, Kharge said if Gandhi gets a chance, he will definitely air his views and that is why "the BJP people are scared".
"Not giving us a chance (to speak in Parliament). Every MP has this freedom, freedom of expression.... So why are you not allowing us to speak in the House? It means that you are scared and the issues that we are raising are the issues of the country," he said.
"Does the government create ruckus in Parliament? Here, everyday the government is instigating and not letting the House to function," he alleged.
"So they themselves are anti-national. Instead of preaching us about patriotism, they should learn themselves. Even during the British rule, they used to be in their service. When the freedom movement started in the country, they did not support that. What will such people teach us?" he asked.
In a statement, Nadda accused Gandhi of speaking the language of "anti-India" George Soros, a billionaire financier, and alleged that the Congress and the "so-called Left liberals" have become a part of the "deep state" conspiracy involving foreign forces against the country. "Anti-national" Congress leaders have been speaking the language of Pakistan, he added.
Gandhi will have to apologise to the people of India for his "sin" of seeking the "interference" of foreign powers in the country's internal affairs, the BJP president said.
Gandhi's remarks during his recent trip to the UK have rocked Parliament, with both houses failing to transact any significant business on the first five days of the budget session's second half.
During his interactions in the UK, Gandhi alleged that the structures of Indian democracy are under attack and there is a "full-scale assault" on the country's institutions.
The former Congress president also told British parliamentarians in London that microphones are often "turned off" in the Lok Sabha when an opposition member raises important issues.
Gandhi's remarks triggered a political slugfest, with the BJP accusing him of maligning India on foreign soil and seeking foreign interventions, and the Congress hitting back at the ruling party by citing instances of Modi raising internal politics abroad.