Amethi/Sultanpur: In sharp escalation of their war of words, Priyanka Gandhi fired yet another salvo at Varun Gandhi saying the Lok Sabha elections is "an ideological war" and that his actions amounted to "betrayal" of the family.
The passage at arms between the two cousins occurred early in the morning from across nearby towns in the midst of electioneering as Varun filed his nomination from Sultanpur constituency.
Varun also hit back at her suggesting Priyanka was "crossing limits of decency" and said that one cannot raise one's stature by belittling somebody.
Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi (2nd L) in Sultanpur, Amethi. Pic/AFP
"This is not a family tea party. It is an ideological war. I believe anybody, no matter how close they are, own blood relations...if they are going to be on that side of the ideological divide.
"He had expressed his views in the last elections and I do not agree with them at all. I strongly disagree with them. It is a betrayal of my family. My father died for the unity of this country. I cannot disregard it for anybody even if it is my own child," Priyanka told reporters in Amethi, where she was campaigning for her brother Rahul.
She was apparently referring to the controversy Varun had created in the last elections when he addressed an election rally in Pilibhit constituency which was widely denounced as a hate speech.
A couple of days earlier she had remarked that Varun had gone "astray" and should be shown the right path.
Varun also gave back in some measure to Priyanka suggesting that she crossed the "lakshman rekha of decency" and noted that his "decency and large-heartedness" should not be construed as a weakness by anyone. Breaking his silence over cousin Priyanka's remark that he has gone "astray", Varun said nobody can raise one's stature by belittling somebody.
The 34-year-old BJP leader also said that his "decency and large-heartedness" should not be construed as a weakness by anyone.
Varun, who filed his nomination from Sultanpur Lok Sabha seat after holding a massive road show here, also chose the occasion to hail the leadership of Narendra Modi after remaining silent over him for over a month during his campaign in his new Parliamentary constituency bordering Amethi and Rae Bareli, the Nehru-Gandhi family pocket borough.
Four local BJP leaders from Upper caste and OBC communities signed as proposers in his nomination.
Hardselling his son of the soil image, the BJP general secretary repeatedly invoked his father Sanjay Gandhi's name while addressing a public meeting in the city drawing cheers from the crowd.
Talking of his commitment to the politics of decency and decorum, Varun claimed that he never crossed the "lakshman rekha of decency" against his family members or senior leaders of Opposition parties.
Gandhi, an MP from Plibhit, switched to Sultanpur this time and is considered to be in a strong position.
Rahul Gandhi, who represents neighbouring Amethi held a road show in 16 km area of Sultanpur when he filed his nomination from Amethi on April 12.
The same day, Priyanka Gandhi addressing a gathering of party workers from Sultanpur criticised Varun for BJP links.
"He is definitely from my family, he is my brother.But he has gone astray. When a young one in the family chooses the wrong path, then elders show them the right path, the right way.I urge all of you to show my brother the right path," she had said.
Her comments had invited immediate response from Varun's mother Maneka Gandhi who said if he has gone astray while serving the country, then the country will decide.
Alluding to the spat, Varun said, "These days, lot of things have come up.I just want to tell this much that nobody should treat my decency and large-heartedness as weakness ...There have been a talk about my path.I am a simple youth.
Speaking at Sanjay Gandhi guest house premises, Priyanka said, "Varun, my cousin, has deceived our family and it is against our principles. He has committed a major mistake and it can not be excused".
"My father laid down his life for the nation and we will not reach any compromise with a person who is against our principles which are to bring the society together".
Later while addressing the party activists, Priyanka said, "Amethi people have always elected PM and this time they will repeat the same".
She repeatedly said that, "In Amethi it is not me or Rahul who are contesting the election but it is the Amethi people". She appealed the party workers "to be aware of destructive forces".