New Delhi: The Congress hit back at the BJP for its criticism of Rahul Gandhi's remarks in the US and said it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was guilty of insulting India on foreign soil.
On a day when both parties flung charges at each other, Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma defended the party vice president for his comments in University of California, Berkeley, and attacked Union minister Smriti Irani for being an "apologist" for the prime minister.
"It is the present prime minister who is guilty of insulting India on foreign soil. It is wrong to accuse Rahul Gandhi of having said anything which is belittling. It again betrays the streak of intolerance and criticism by the BJP and the present government," Sharma said.
According to Sharma, the prime minister during his first foreign visit had called the country corrupt and said India was recognised in the world for carrying a "begging bowl in its hand" and that Indians used to feel ashamed accepting them as Indian citizens on foreign soil.
"Instead of criticising us, today is the time for prime minister and his apologist ministers to reflect and apologise to the country for having said such words on foreign soil," he said.
Sharma said Gandhi rightly defended dynasties in the country.
"When it comes to the Nehru-Gandhi family, there have been five generations in the service of the country. For 32 years there is no member of the Nehru-Gandhi family who has accepted or taken oath of office," he said.
Sharma said the Congress was "surprised" at the "unwarranted and unjustified" criticism by the government and the ruling party.
"We reject the criticism with the force of truth, facts of history and with contempt for those who have neither contributed to make India what it is but have only belittled and insulted the predecessors and all those great men and women who are responsible for what India is today," he said.
Sharma also said, "The statements and issues raised by I&B Minister displays her ignorance of history and her eagerness to be an apologist for a prime minister who has betrayed the country."
The Congress leader said Gandhi had criticised the government, the prime minister and not the nation, which is a feature of democracy and should not be objected to.
On Union minister Smriti Irani's claim that GST is Modi's "exclusive achievement", Sharma said it was "a distorition of facts and a statement of arrogance".
He said it was the Congress which introduced the GST and tried to build national consensus.
He said GST could not have come without Congress support and a constitutional amendment is not possible even today without the support of the Congress and the combined opposition.
In his speech in the US, Gandhi criticised Modi, accusing him of divisive politics and causing "tremendous damage" to India's economy with "reckless and dangerous" decisions like demonetisation and GST.
He had also argued that India was being run by dynasties and cited the examples of Samajwadi Party, DMK and even Bollywood.
"So that's how India runs. So don't get after me because that's how India is run," he said.
Within hours of Gandhi's speech, Irani blasted him at a press conference, calling him a "failed dynast" and failed politician.
She said his admission that the Congress had turned arrogant since 2012 was a reflection on Sonia Gandhi's leadership. "The fact that Rahul Gandhi chose to belittle the prime minister is not a surprise but expected..."
Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad also attacked the Congress vice president. "Rahul Gandhi gets wisdom when he is outside India. There is a tradition of our country that we don't talk about domestic politics overseas. Despite being from a big family, Rahul Gandhi did not pay attention to this established tradition."