The intermittent war of words between the BJP and Janata Dal (United) hit an unprecedented low on Monday with JD(U) MP Shivanand Tiwari not just likening RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat to MIM legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi but also accusing the Sangh of representing an anti-Dalit, anti-women, anti-tribal and anti-minority mindset.
This is a break with the past, as the attack is not just on Narendra Modi with an eye on minority votes this time, but openly accuses ally BJP's ideological fountainhead of being casteist and patriarchal as well.
Dubbing Bhagwat's purported statement that women should look after the household and men should work, Tiwari accused him of displaying a "primitive" mindset, saying he was trying to take India back in time.
"This is reflective of the mindset that said a Shudra be punished by pouring molten glass in his ears if he hears Sanskrit; Dalits, tribals, women and minorities be oppressed," Tiwari said. "Being a product of the RSS, Narendra Modi should tell us what he thinks about such views."
While the earlier JD (U) attacks on the BJP were criticisms of Modi's exclusion of Muslims, this one was also an attempt to dub Hindutva an upper caste ideology to subdue Dalits, women and tribals.
The Sangh claims that it has attempted to include tribals, and, in a more limited manner, Dalits, within Hindutva, and Tiwari's attack must have hit where it hurts most.
BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad was quick to rubbish the charge: "Tiwari has compared Mohan Bhagwatji with the MIM MLA Owaisi. What does he mean by this? He has made very uncharitable comments about the RSS. I need to inform him as a Swayamsevak of RSS myself that in the whole RSS ideology and working, be it the Dalits or adivasi or backwards or women or any sections of society, they are given pride of place."
Prasad plainly added that the JD(U) would have to rein Tiwari in.
Later, JD(U) president Sharad Yadav played down the controversy, saying people should avoid reacting to statements, and that since he was unaware of the context of Tiwari's speech, he would have to talk to him.