New Delhi: The war of words between the Congress and the BJP escalated Monday with the former accusing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of communally polarizing India.
Modi also faced flak from former ally, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) which cited his recent comments as validating its decision to break ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party and leave the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
"This is about polarization between libertarians, between those who believe in pluralism, and those who subscribe to the ideology of communalism," said Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, while Congress general secretary Ajay Maken said the "veil of secularism is better than naked communalism".
Maken also marshalled an array of facts showing that Modi's Gujarat lagged on several development indicators.
The war of words began when Modi, addressing a college gathering in Pune Sunday, said that whenever the Congress government is faced with trouble, it hides behind "a veil of secularism" so that no one questions the party on real issues.
Defending its leader, the BJP said the Congress had no right to criticize him as he has won three elections based on his development agenda.
"The Congress which couldn't defeat him in Gujarat on these very issues is talking about it from Delhi now," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told Times Now news channel.
She said the Prime Minister's Office and the Planning Commission had also acknowledged Gujarat's development.
Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha president Anurag Thakur also came to Modi's support.
"In the context of the veil, I would just like to say that when the Congress party does not have an answer, it hides in a veil and Narendra Modi has spoken the truth," Thakur told reporters here.
In Patna, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said his party's (JD-U) decision to leave the NDA last month was right.
"Our decision to leave NDA was right (due to) the language used by a BJP leader to hurt the feeling of a community...," Nitish Kumar told media persons without naming Modi.
In an interview to a foreign news agency Saturday, Modi said he had done "absolutely the right thing" during the Gujarat riots in 2002 and that even if a "puppy comes under the wheel of a car, one feels sad".
Nitish Kumar said that the "next general elections result will prove BJP wrong and vindicate our stand that there is need to take (everyone) along and not to hurt feeling of one community".
The Congress also took objection to Modi in his Pune speech questioning the outcome of the food security proposal, attacking the UPA over the falling value of the rupee and its claims of enacting rights-based legislation, saying people needed action, not acts.
"He (Modi) has no moral authority to criticise the central government when he has failed in his state as chief minister," Maken said. "He has no right to create a false impression."
Maken contended that during the nine years of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule, the performance was better than what the BJP-led NDA achieved during its six-year rule 1998-2004.