New Delhi | The Congress hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday over his remarks targeting the opposition alliance, with Rahul Gandhi saying "call us whatever you want", but "we are INDIA" and will rebuild the idea of India in Manipur.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said while "we are talking about Manipur, which is burning", the prime minister is "talking about East India (Company) and saying INDIA means East India (Company)".
Later, in a tweet in Hindi, Kharge said, "While we are talking about Manipur, the prime minister, outside the House, is calling 'INDIA' as 'East India Company'. The Congress party has always been with 'Mother India' i.e. 'Bharat Mata'." "The slaves of the British were the political ancestors of the BJP. Prime Minister Modi, stop diverting the country's attention with your rhetoric. Narendra Modiji, speak about Manipur in Parliament, do not belittle the dignity of the prime minister's post by calling INDIA, that is Bharat, good or bad," the Congress president said.
In a video released by the Congress, Kharge said, "Why is he (Modi) rattled by the name of our alliance INDIA, if he thinks there is nothing in a name? This means that with the opposition meetings being held successfully in Patna and in Bengaluru, they (BJP) are getting rattled and scared. They are saying all this in their fear and recalling East India Company and Indian Mujahideen." "They are aligned with the ideology that helped the East India Company and the British. They did not participate in the Quit India movement and the freedom movement. And the people of the ideology that killed (Mahatma) Gandhiji are telling us that we are directionless. We are not directionless, we show the way. Prime Minister Modi has become directionless," he added.
Kharge urged Modi to speak on Manipur and said that is why "we have called for a debate under Rule 267, in which voting can also take place".
"What is happening in Manipur cannot be compared with Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh or any other state. Those are incidents in which quick action can be taken by the state governments. In Manipur, the entire state is burning.... And now, Meghalaya and Mizoram have also started to burn," the Congress chief said.
Modi slammed the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) as the most directionless the country has ever seen and cited reviled names, such as East India Company and Indian Mujahideen, to assert that people cannot be misled merely by the use of the country's name.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said the prime minister told a BJP Parliamentary Party meeting that the conduct of the opposition has been such that as if it has decided to stay in the opposition for long.
Hitting back at Modi, Gandhi tweeted: "Call us whatever you want, Mr Modi. We are INDIA. We will help heal Manipur and wipe the tears of every woman and child. We will bring back love and peace for all her people." "We will rebuild the idea of India in Manipur," the former Congress chief said.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh claimed that it is clear that the prime minister is "very rattled by the 26-party INDIA".
"Not only is he trying to give new life to the almost-dead NDA but has also given it a new meaning through his vile abuses this morning -- the National Defamation Alliance. When he is cornered, this is what Mr Modi does all the time -- deny, divert, distort, deflect and defame," Ramesh said in a tweet.
Slamming Modi, the Congress's media and publicity department head Pawan Khera said in a tweet in Hindi: "Modiji, you have become so blind in opposing the Congress that you have started hating India itself. I heard that today in frustration you attacked India itself." Tagging Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Ravi Shankar Prasad's remarks elaborating on what the prime minister said at the BJP Parliamentary Party meet, Khera said, "Article 1 -- India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of states." Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate also attacked Modi for his remarks, saying while cursing the opposition, the prime minister "has started calling India good or bad?" "One thing is clear -- you give instructions to your cheap troll army. The opposition is not misguided -- you are a victim of moral bankruptcy. Stop paying lip service, gather courage and speak on Manipur," Shrinate said in a tweet in Hindi.
With opposition parties rallying around the name "INDIA" for their alliance, the prime minister, at the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting, cited the history of several organisations, including certain banned extremist and terror outfits, using the country's name and panned the grouping as a collection of corrupt leaders and parties.
Even the Indian National Congress, the main opposition party, was named so by an Englishman, A O Hume, Modi said, according to sources.
Organisations that wanted to divide and rule the country have used names like "India" and "Indian" to mislead people, Modi added. People have now matured and will not be misled by such nomenclature, he asserted.
With the BJP accusing opposition parties of disrupting parliamentary proceedings, Modi said they have become more irresponsible, making it imperative for the ruling party to behave more responsibly.
The opposition has been demanding that Modi make a statement on the Manipur issue in Parliament before a debate on the matter can be taken up. With the opposition and treasury bench members not relenting, a logjam is prevailing in both houses.
More than 160 people have lost their lives and several have been injured since ethnic violence broke out in Manipur on May 3, when a "Tribal Solidarity March" was organised in the hill districts to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Meiteis account for about 53 per cent of Manipur's population and live mostly in the Imphal valley, while tribals, including Nagas and Kukis, constitute 40 per cent and reside mostly in the hill districts.