Leader of Opposition and Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Rahul Gandhi on Monday launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for an ‘assault’ on the idea of India. In his first speech as the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Gandhi displayed posters of religious figures, including Lord Shiva, to target the ruling party. 

“All our great men have spoken about non-violence and finishing fear…But, those who call themselves Hindu (BJP) only talk about violence, hatred, untruth…Aap Hindu ho hi nahi,” Gandhi said while speaking on Monday in the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address in Lok Sabha.

The Raebareli MP’s remark triggered an uproar in the Lok Sabha with top BJP leaders, including PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah , intervening to say that Rahul Gandhi has made serious allegations that “all those who identify as Hindus, talk about violence”. 

Shah sought Gandhi’s apology for the remarks. “Rahul Gandhi must apologise for his remarks painting all Hindus as violent,” the Home Minister said. 

Gandhi, who began his address in the Lok Sabha with “Jai Samvidhan” amidst slogans of ‘Modi’ and ‘Bharat’, displayed posters with images of Lord Shiv and Jesus Christ and cited the Quran and a saying of Prophet Muhammad in support of his argument that all religions teach courage and fearlessness. Gandhi went on to attack the BJP and said Hinduism is not about spreading fear, hatred and falsehoods.

“If you look at Lord Shiva’s image, you would know that Hindus can never spread fear and hatred, but BJP spreads fear and hatred 24/7,” Gandhi said. 

Speaker Om Birla objected to Gandhi’s display of posters with images of religious figures. He urged Gandhi to follow the rules of Parliament and refrain from displaying placards on the floor of the House. 

Rahul Gandhi’s speech in the 18th Lok Sabha came after Speaker Om Birla, who did not accept adjournment motions by Opposition MPs on NEET-UG row earlier in the day. Birla also refused to entertain Gandhi’s suggestion of a one-day discussion on the paper leak issue.

“There has been a systemic assault on the Constitution… People who have questioned this have been attacked. Even I have been aggressively attacked from all fronts. I have been questioned for over 55 hours by the ED,” Gandhi said.