PTI, BENGALURU/NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader B K Hariprasad Thursday mocked BJP president Amit Shah for his swine flu condition, triggering a tsunami of angry reactions from the BJP which hit back saying flu is curable but "mental illness" of leaders of the opposition party is difficult to treat.
The Congress sought to distance itself from its Rajya Sabha MP Hariprasad, who in Bengaluru said Shah contracted swine flu since his party made an alleged bid to destabilise the Congress-JDS government in Karnataka.
Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said the party could never think of wishing illness to any BJP leader, while drawing attention to its president Rahul Gandhi's wishes for good health to Union minister Arun Jaitley, who is in the US for health check-up.
Speaking at a Congress protest in Bengaluru against the alleged attempt by the BJP to dislodge the Congress-JDS government in Karnataka by luring the ruling coalition MLAs, Hariprasad in Kannada said,"As a few legislators have already come back, Amit Shah is shaken and has got fever. It is not a normal fever. It is swine flu."
He added that "You should know that if you try to destabilise the Karnataka government, not just swine flu, you will get vomiting and dysentery also."
Shah was Wednesday admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi for swine flu treatment.
Union ministers, BJP leaders in the state and the national capital slammed Hariprasad and used his comments to attack the opposition party and demanded that it sack him and tender a public apology.
"The kind of ugly and indecent comments Congress MP B K Hariprasad have made about BJP president Amit Shah's health show the standards of the Congress. Flu is curable but it is difficult to cure Congress leaders' mental illness," Union minister Piyush Goyal said.
Apart from Goyal several union ministers, including Rajyavardhan Rathore, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, reacted sharply.
Karnataka BJP general secretary Arvind Limbavali blamed the Congress and its "culture" for Hariprasad's comments.
"Congress & it's culture. This Congress MP definitely needs some education & before that he needs to learn some human values. Most importantly he needs to get his mental stability checked. Anyway I hope BK Hariprasad recovers from his mental illness & start behaving civilized," Limbavali said in a tweet.
Asked for the Congress' reaction, Chaturvedi made no direct reference to Hariprasad's comments but said the party wants good health of all BJP leaders who are in hospital be it their chief Shah or union minister Jaitley.
The BJP, however, demanded action against Hariprasad, with its spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao claiming that the Congress leadership's "silence" establishes that all such "toxic" comments have sanction of its leadership.
"And if they want to really disapprove of his remarks, Rahul Gandhi should sack Hariprasad and should make him apologise publicly to Amit Shah," Rao added.
Naqvi described the Congress MP's remarks as completely "abhorrent and ugly" and said its leaders don't even have the basic decency as to how to react to a person's illness.
Expressing his sadness over "cheap statements", Rathore said he was not surprised to see Congress leaders completely abandon decency and dignity. Such comments also show the frustration of the Congress leadership, he added.
Another party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain dubbed the remarks as "shameful" and said this is the real face of the Congress.
The BJP's Karnataka unit called Hariprasad a "rogue" and described his remarks as "shameless" that showed his party's "culture" and his "mental stability".
"Congress MP & AICC General Secretary BK Hariprasad mocking at health condition of Sri @AmitShah ji shows his mental stability," the Karnataka BJP said in a tweet.
"This rogue needs to learn human values & is unfit to live in a civilised society. We request @RahulGandhi to admit him to NIMHANS to get some treatment," it added.
BJP's national media head Anil Baluni on Thursday, Shah is doing well and will be discharged in a day or two.
The Congress has claimed that the BJP attempt to dislodge the coalition government in the state was a "flop", as some MLAs who had allegedly gone incommunicado are supporting it.
Both the Congress-JDS combine and the BJP have been trading charges of horse trading against each other, ever since the political drama unfolded on Monday.