The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Friday hit out at the niece of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Congress leader Karuna Shukla, accusing her of politicising his death.

The BJP charge came a day after Shukla accused the ruling BJP of politicising former Prime Minister’s death by carrying his ashes across India for electoral gains in 2019 general elections.

“She (Karuna Shukla) is with the Congress and had also contested elections on their ticket. She is trying to politicise it (AB Vajpayee’s death). It is unfortunate… We believe this far beyond and above politics,” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli told journalists.

“But we don”t see it as a political exercise. Some people have also pointed out why BJP is taking Atal’s ashes across the country. This is not the first time this has happened…it’s happened with several Prime Minister before Atal — Nehru’s ashes and Indira Gandhi’s ashes also went to several states,” Mr Kohli said.

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“I think that opportunity to people to offer their homage is not a political opportunity but a mark of respect,” he said.

Shukla on Thursday had accused the BJP of trying to “cash in” on the departed leader’s death for “political gains” eyeing upcoming Assembly elections in four states.

“I am stunned and pained to see the way BJP is trying to use the name of Atal-ji after his demise for political gains,” Shukla had said in a statement in Raipur.

She alleged that the saffron party did not think about Vajpayee at all in the last 10 years and it was only trying to gain politically by invoking him now.

“In the past ten years, the BJP never thought of Atal-ji and now, in view of Assembly polls in four states, the party is trying to cash in on his death,” she said.

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Underlining that it was for the first time that Prime Minister Narendra Modi took Vajpayee’s name on Independence Day at the Red Fort, she said: “PM Modi did that because he had gone to see Vajpayee in AIIMS on August 14. He had perhaps realised that the former PM’s condition was quite delicate. Perhaps therefore, he took his name.”

Karuna Shukla was a BJP MP from Janjgir in Chhattisgarh from 2004 to 2009. She joined the Congress in 2014 after quitting BJP in 2013.

She also criticised the ruling BJP in Chhattisgarh for renaming Naya Raipur, the upcoming capital city, as ‘Atal Nagar’ and naming various institutions after him.

“People are well aware of the drama being played by the BJP and can understand that stunts like five km walk by Prime Minister Narendra Modi (with Vajpayee’s cortege) and installing Atal-ji’s statue are nothing but vote-bank politics,” she said.

Vajpayee passed away at the age of 93 at All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi on August 16.

(With inputs from agencies)