The ruling BJP president Amit Shah's remarks calling Mahatma Gandhi "bahut chatur baniya (very shrewd man from trading caste) sparked a furore on Saturday, with the Opposition parties tearing into him and demanding apology from him as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allegedly denigrating the father of the nation.
Addressing a gathering in Raipur on Friday, Shah described Mahatma as "bahut chatur baniya" who, he said, had rightly foreseen the future and called for dissolution of the Congress party after Independence.
Going after the Congress, Shah also said this party was not based on any ideology or principles and was actually meant to be a "special purpose vehicle (SPV)" to secure India's freedom.
Hitting back on Shah on Saturday, the All India Congress Committee (AICC)'s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala called him a "trader of power".
Surjewala said : "Rather than fighting casteism, they (BJP) identified even the father of the nation with his caste. This shows the character and ideology of the ruling party and its president. It is dreadful to imagine where will these people take the country?"
Slamming the BJP chief, Surjewala charged, "Amit Shah, who himself is a trader of power, is saying that the freedom movement was a business model. But in reality, before Independence, the British used RSS and Hindu Mahasabha as a SPV for the country's partition."
He also alleged that "the BJP is even today acting as a SPV for few corporates for taking care of their business interests".
Surjewala said, "We demand that Amit Shah, BJP and Prime Minister Modi apologise to the country, the families of freedom fighters and every citizen for insulting the freedom movement, freedom fighters, and the father of the nation."
A slew of other Opposition parties also reportedly reacted sharply to condemn Shah's remarks.
The West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamul chairperson Mamata Banerjee said Shah should "withdraw his comment and apologise for it". She said, "It is a deliberate act. It is unfortunate, uncalled for and unethical".
The CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy said the father of the nation should be respected by everyone. "Calling a leader respected the world over as a baniya is in bad taste," he added.
The senior CPI-M leader Prakash Karat said Shah only betrayed the BJP's real opinion about Gandhi. "It just reveals the contempt the BJP-RSS has for Gandhiji," he charged.