Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Friday said the Muslim League is a "virus" and claimed the Congress was affected by it, prompting the opposition party to retort that it was he who was a "virus" that would be "eradicated" in the election.
The tit-for-tat verbal duel was sparked with a tweet from Adityanath a day after Congress chief Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination from Wayanad in Kerala.
"Muslim League is a virus. If someone is affected by this virus, he cannot survive and today main Opposition party Congress is affected by it. Think, if they win what will happen? This virus will spread in the entire nation," Adityanath said on Twitter.
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The chief minister was apparently referring to the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), which is a long-time member of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala, equating it with the pre-Partition Muslim League.
He brought in the 1857 movement for freedom and its hero Mangal Pandey.
"In 1857, entire country fought against Britishers with Mangal Pandey, then this Muslim League virus came and spread in such a way that the country was divided," he said.
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"The same threat is looming over the country again. Green flags are once again furled. Congress is suffering from Muslim league virus, remain alert," the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader said.
Reacting to Adityanath's statement, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala called the chief minister "Bhogi" (hedonistic) and said the remarks were "completely intemperate".
"A virus named 'Bhogi' Adityanath has hung development in the largest state of Uttar Pradesh. People of Uttar Pradesh did correct that virus during the by-elections to some Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh. The virus will be completely eradicated in this Lok Sabha election," Surjewala said.
Adityanath had on Thursday accused Gandhi of having a "secret agenda" in Kerala with the Muslim League, the "same organisation" which caused the country's division.
UP Congress Anshu Awasthi told PTI that the Election Commission should take notice of Adityanath's statement and take action.
"It was for the first time in the history of the country that the Pakistani agency (ISI) came over for inquiry in Pathankot under the BJP government... The country and its people know very well as to who is the actual virus," Awasthi said.
Awasthi reminded the BJP of its alliance with the the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir.
"How can anyone who had itself run the government with the PDP, which had taken 'terrorists for martyrs' and withdrew cases against the stone pelters, speak in this tone?" he asked.