New Delhi: BJP MP Chandan Mitra's demand to strip Nobel laureate Amartya Sen of the Bharat Ratna for his anti-Narendra Modi remarks has irked the Congress which Thursday called it an insult of the highest civilian award and a reflection of fascist mentality.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said noted economist Sen, 79, had a right to express his views.
"What kind of mentality is this. Either you are with us or against us. If you are against us, you are not entitled to Bharat Ratna," he asked.
Tewari said Bharat Ratna was bestowed on Sen by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the major constituent.
He said suggestions were also being made that Amartya Sen, who is based in the US, should return the Nobel prize.
"What is it that Mr. Amartya Sen has done. In this country aren't people entitled to their view. If this is not pure fascism what else is it," Tewari said.
Amartya Sen had said in a TV interview that he did not want Modi to be prime minister of the country in view of his "record" during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad said every citizen had a right to express his views.
He said the demand to take back the honour bestowed upon Sen "was an insult of Bharat Ratna" and accused the BJP of displaying "height of intolerance".
"Amartya Sen doesn't want Modi as PM, rates him below Nitish. For this sin, the BJP wants to strip his Bharat Ratna. Isn't it height of intolerance? (sic)," Ahmad said in a tweet.
In tweets Wednesday, Mitra said the next NDA government should strip Sen of Bharat Ratna.
"Amartya Sen says he doesn't want Modi to be India's PM: Is he even a voter in India? Next NDA Govt must strip him of Bharat Ratna. Please Dr Sen, don't peddle your unsolicited comments on India. We now know you as a has-been economist who sells Congress line for a living," Mitra had said.
"Those who are upset with my suggestion about Sen and Bharat Ratna, can you show me examples of others who do party politics after getting BR (Bharat Ratna) I repeat. Bharat Ratna is a jewel of whole country. No BR should speak for or against any party or leader. Sen shouldn't join Cong poll team," Mitra added.
Mitra's demand was supported by BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi.
Ahmad used the expression "height of intolerance" used by Modi earlier this week to target the Congress over alleged action of its workers in shutting down an eatery in Mumbai which had on its bills remarks critical of the United Progressive Alliance government.
Poet Javed Akhtar, a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha, also hit out at Mitra's remarks. "Moral of Mr. Chandan Mitra's outburst - If you want BHARAT RATNA and retain it too, never say a word against Mr. Modi," Akhtar said in a tweet.