Hitting out at Narendra Modi, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday accused the BJP's prime ministerial nominee of insulting the 'martyrdom' of her late husband Rajiv Gandhi.
Close on the heels of her daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra charging Modi with practising low-level politics (neech rajniti), Sonia tore into the BJP leader at a rally in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, adding a fresh chapter to a controversy that triggered a political storm in the last phase of campaigning.
"… unkii neech rajnitik soch aur batein unko aur desh ko shobha nahi detii (Their low-level political ideology and speeches do not suit them and the nation)," she said in her speech, which could trigger a fresh verbal duel between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the use of "neech (low-level)" word.
Slamming Modi for dragging Rajiv Gandhi to the Elections 2014 debate "23 years after" the former prime minister's "martyrdom", Sonia added, "I will say that he (Modi) must keep in mind this great country's rich culture and generosity."
Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister from 1984-89. He was assassinated in 1991 when he has leading the Congress campaign to return to power at the Centre.
A controversy had erupted after Modi held a rally at Sonia's son and Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's constituency Amethi on Monday. The BJP leader had lashed out at Rahul and his father Rajiv Gandhi, who had represented Amethi in Parliament in the past.
Reacting to Modi's barbs, Priyanka had issued a statement, accusing the BJP leader of "insulting her martyred" father and asserting that people in Amethi "will reply to their neech rajniti (low-level politics)".
Modi, on his part, had said some people considered his politics was of "low-level" just because he was from a backward caste.
"What is our (backward communities') crime? How dare they termed us as lowly and insult us?" Modi had replied, triggering a heated debate.
Taking a dig at the Gujarat chief minister ahead of the last round of the nine-phase elections, Sonia said the BJP was practising caste-based politics and wanted to divide the people.
"The BJP mislead people… They are doing caste-based politics. They want to divide people. They have a cheap mentality, and their ideology tries to harm the diversity of this nation."
She also lashed out at Modi over the Gujarat model of development, which has generated a big talk this election season
"Many women and children suffer from malnourishment in Gujarat. Farmers are struggling for basic amenities there.
"If this becomes the condition of the whole country, then you can understand what will happen," she said.
Sonia also accused the BJP of failing to combat terrorism when it ruled India for six years under Atal Bihari Vajapyee's leadership.
"The BJP says we are soft on terror. The truth is the nation was marred by terrorist attacks during their six-year rule.
"Congress leaders have sacrificed their lives for the nation. We will keep fighting for India's integrity," Sonia added.