New Delhi: The verbal spat between the Congress and the BJP grew more strident on Sunday with the BJP's allegations of "corruption under patronage" in land deals of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra evoked a spirited response from his wife Priyanka Gandhi, who accused the party of "running like bewildered rats".
Priyanka Gandhi addresses a Congress rally in Delhi. File pic
Priyanka Gandhi's forceful counter-offensive in which she also spoke about not being intimidated by BJP's attacks and "lies" and her determination to continue speaking against its "destructive" politics spurred similar reactions from Congress spokespersons who dismissed allegations against Vadra.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad launched one of his party's fiercest attacks on the Gandhi family, accusing Vadra of making "unscrupulous" land deals and seeking answers from Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi on the issue.
Prasad told a press conference in New Delhi that the Gandhis should explain the "Robert Vadra model of development" when "there is so much unemployment and economy was down".
"It is a text book case of corruption, crony capitalism under patronage," he said.
Terming Vadra as "damad shri (honoured son-in-law)", Prasad claimed land acquisitions by Vadra's firms had flouted several laws, including the Land Acquisition Act in Congress-ruled Haryana and in Rajasthan where the party was earlier in power.
The BJP released a video and a six-page booklet - "Damad shree the Vadra 'get-rich-quick' model" - on Vadra's land deals.
The video made repeated attacks at Vadra and said the people will not forgive the Congress in the Lok Sabha election. The booklet posed several queries to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on Vadra's land deals and asked them to come clean.
The video said while there were cases of "bhai bhatijavad (nepotism)", Vadra had added a new tradition of "damadvad (son-in-law favouritism)".
The BJP said the booklet will be distributed in different parts of the country.
Prasad said if an investigation is carried out, there will be criminal cases against Vadra.
"He (Vadra) made huge profit of Rs.300 crore in a few years from an intitial investment of Rs 1 lakh," he alleged.
Congress spokespersons Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Randeep Surjewala and general secretary Ajay Maken refuted the BJP's allegations, but it was Priyanka Gandhi, who in Rae Bareli came out all guns blazing against the BJP and said she will not stay quiet.
She accused the BJP of unecessarily defaming her husband and said the opposition represented "destructive, negative" politics.
"They are behaving like bewildered rats. I knew they would resort to spreading lies a few days before polls," she told media persons in the constituency where her mother Sonia Gandhi is contesting.
"Let them do more such smear campaigns. I will not keep quiet. I will keep raising my voice against their negative, destructive and shameful politics," she said after an election rally.
"Let them attack more. I will not remain quiet," she said.
In her addresses, she targeted BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, saying his party represented a kind of politics which aimed at concentrating power in one person, while in an indirect jibe at Modi, quipped India does not need a "56-inch chest" for good governance.
Maken said the allegations levelled by the BJP were "old and baseless" and had been regurgitated during election time "as a cheap political stunt."
The BJP's attack Sunday came amid concerted Congress criticism of Modi over his Gujarat model of development, and two days ahead of the April 30 polling for 89 Lok Sabha seats, including all 26 seats in Gujarat.