A war of words broke out on Wednesday between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hours after Home Minister P Chidambaram snubbed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi over his remarks that Mumbai could not have been attacked by Pakistan-based terrorists without support from within India.
Chidambaram said at a press conference in New Delhi: "You should ask Narendra Modi and Pakistan if they are in contact with each other."
Later, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said: "At a time, when Pakistan is targeted from all sides on the issue of terrorism, the BJP seems to have become the biggest supporter of Pakistan."
He said: "Either it is a well-drafted strategy of the BJP or a childish act. If it is a childish act, then the BJP has no right to remain as a political party."
Modi, speaking at the BJP national council meeting in Nagpur on Sunday, had said: "Such a big terror attack on India cannot take place without local help. Any ordinary or simple person will say that."
Modi has tried to defend his statement since then, saying: "I only meant to say if Pakistan had planned such a big attack, it may well have done some recce, it may have got some assistance locally. The government should also keep this in mind."
The BJP too has tried to defend him. Party vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the ruling party was only trying to conceal its failures by diverting attention.
"It is complete political bankruptcy (of the Congress) as they are trying to hide their failures in the last five years. Elections are just a couple of months away," he told IANS.
"They are trying to divert attention of the people and convert a non-issue into an issue," he added.
The Pakistan media used Modi's remarks to insist that the 26/11 terror attacks that killed 170 people in Mumbai were abetted by what it said were alienated Indian Muslims.
Modi's statement stood out against repeated assertions by New Delhi that elements in Pakistan were responsible for the Mumbai atrocity.
"The statements being given by BJP leaders have become a shield for Pakistan. The jugalbandi (twosome) of Narendra Modi and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi puts a question mark on the nationalism of BJP," Congress' Tewari said.
"At a time when the world is considering Pakistan as the central point of terrorism, the opposition party is playing into the hands of Pakistan. It is time the BJP explains its relation with Pakistan," he added.