New Delhi: BJP chief Amit Shah on Saturday came under attack for his remarks describing Mahatma Gandhi as a "shrewd bania" with Congress and other opposition parties demanding an apology from him for "insulting" the Father of the Nation.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi over Shah's remarks while West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee termed them "unethical and unfortunate" and said he should immediately withdraw them.
Surjewala told mediapersons here that Shah had committed a heinous crime and anti-national act.
"We demand that Amit Shah, BJP and Prime Minister Narendra should apologise to the people and the families of the freedom fighters of the country for insulting their struggle. Shah has indulged in a heinous crime and an anti-national act. There can't be a bigger crime than this," he said.
Surjewala said identifying Gandhi with caste exposes the "real face, character and mindset" of Shah.
Surjewala said Shah had insulted the sacrifices made during the freedom struggle by associating Mahatma Gandhi with a business model.
"Has the entire struggle become a mere business? Was building the nation a business. Only Amit Shah, who does trade of power and BJP can give such indications. Would Mahatma Gandhi be now identified with his caste?" he asked.
Hitting back at Shah, Surjewala said the "Britishers used Hindu Mahasabha and the Sangh as a special purpose vehicle for the partition of the country."
"After independence, they have become a vehicle to oppress Dalits, and the weaker sections. This is their real face and character," he added.
In Jalpaiguri, Trinamool Congress supremo Banerjee attacked Shah. "Mahatma Gandhi is the Father of the Nation and he is an icon of the world. We cannot use such unjustified language about him. It is unethical, unfortunate and uncalled for."
"I think such statements should be immediately withdrawn and an apology should be sought," she said.
Banerjee felt a simple apology from Shah would not end the matter as, "this is an intentional blunder by him".
Mamata also tweeted and said politicians should be careful about their language.
"When we, in public life, speak about icons of our nation and the world, we must always show utmost respect and sensitivity with language," she posted on Twitter.
Taking a swipe at Shah, the Trinamool supremo claimed that no one should think of themselves as a superpower just because they are at the helm.
Shah, while addressing a gathering in Raipur on Friday, referred to Mahatma Gandhi as a "shrewd baniya".
"The Congress is not a party based on one ideology or one principle, it is a special purpose vehicle to gain independence this is why Mahatma Gandhi with foresight, he was a shrewd baniya, he knew what was going to happen, he said immediately after independence that the Congress should be dissolved.
"He didn't do it, but some people are now completing the job of dissolving it. He had said this because the Congress had no ideology, was not formed based on a principle, and did not have any principle to run the country or government," Shah had said.
Bihar's ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) also slammed Shah's remarks. JD-U spokesperson Neeraj Kumar told the media in Patna that Shah had insulted the nation and its people by using a "caste" name to address Mahatma Gandhi.
Neeraj said Shah was targeting Mahatma Gandhi by naming his caste. "It is shameful and unforgivable."
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leaders said that Shah, by calling Gandhi a "chatur baniya", had exposed his own and the BJP's mindset and their real agenda.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar did not comment on Shah's remarks and ignored queries from the media.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Kumar Vishwas said he had not heard Shah's remarks but noted that any comment about the Father of Nation should be made by a person who has at least lived one percent of his life the way Mahatma had done.