Congress MP Shashi Tharoor's criticism of the Modi government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic at the Lahore ThinkFest has sparked a controversy, with the BJP accusing him of "demeaning and discrediting" India.
Moreover, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said that the way Congress leaders are demeaning the country on international platforms, especially in Pakistan, it seems Rahul Gandhi is vying to contest elections in Pakistan.
"Are you trying to contest elections from Pakistan? Please respond," Patra asked. "We in BJP will start calling him Rahul Lahori and henceforth I too will address Rahul Gandhi as Rahul Lahori. A debut rally for him has already been done in Pakistan by Tharoor," the BJP leader added.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Sachin Pilot has hit back at Patra. Instead of renaming Rahul Gandhi, Pilot suggested to come up with new names for Modi, Advani and Vajpayee.
Taking to Twitter, he wrote, "Instead, come up with new names for the following:
-Mr Advani, who went to Jinnah’s grave and sung his praise
-Mr. Vajpayee, who went to Lahore in a bus and invited Gen Mushrraf for a feast in Agra
-Mr. Modi, who went with gifts for Nawaz Sharif’s granddaughter’s wedding."
Earlier, Tharoor had taken part in a conversation during Lahore ThinkFest on the theme "How Covid Has Changed the World" with Pakistani journalist Khurram Husain.
Husain asked him how things were in India in respect to COVID-19. "Obviously not good. We look with envy across the border because you chaps seem to be having a pleasant time of it, in terms of being able to return to normalcy. We are facing may places where numbers are going up. So there is no sense yet of a peak having been reached and in some parts, including both the capital Delhi where I am, and my constituency Thiruvananthapuram, the number are worse than they ever been," Tharoor said.
Answering a query, he said India was identifying more cases due to ramped-up testing and a lot of people in Pakistan may have been or were coroanvirus positive and just not being counted because they are asymptomatic and not being tested.
"Partly, of course, the more you test the more you find and, therefore, as the testing has been ramped up considerably we are identifying more and more people infected and I don't know how many people or percentage of the population you have been able to test in Pakistan. So it is possible that a lot of people in Pakistan may have had it and are just not being counted because they are asymptomatic," he said.
Asked how rising COVID-19 number has impacted "political fortunes" of the central government, Tharoor said that the polls suggest that it has not hurt them politically as it should.
"It is paradoxical that government in India is not doing well and people realise that the government is not doing well in terms of managing COVID-19 but the polls suggest that it is not hurt them politically as it should. So we in the opposition do point out that," he said.
(With input from agencies)