NEW DELHI/GUWAHATI: As the Jahawarlal Nehru University (JNU) row escalated on Monday, BJP chief Amit Shah and Congress vice-president traded bitter charges.
The BJP president accused Rahul Gandhi of supporting "anti-nationals" and desiring another "division" of India while the latter replied that the BJP was pursuing an agenda of sowing "division and hatred".
As these exchanges grew shriller, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury weighed in against the BJP, saying there can be no "bigger farce than Godse-worshippers" handing out certificates of nationalism.
Yechury's predecessor Prakash Karat accused the NDA government's top machinery of "directing the crisis" at JNU, with a view to establishing the BJP's ideological hegemony on varsities in the country.
This was Shah's first appearance in the JNU controversy and he followed the line set by other BJP heavies such as Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani.
Shah asked Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul a number of rhetorical questions.
"An attempt was made to turn a leading university in the national capital into a centre that encourages terrorism and separatism. I want to ask Rahul Gandhi if it would be in the national interest if the central government kept quiet," he asked.
"Are you not encouraging traitors by protesting in support of these anti-nationals,"Shah wrote in a blog.
Shah pointed out that the JNU protesters raised slogans like 'Pakistan zindabad' and 'India go back' and expressed support for Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and Kashmir's independence.
Has Rahul Gandhi joined hands with separatists, he wondered.
"Does he want another division of India? The kind of statements the Congress vice president and other leaders of his party made in JNU prove again that national interest has no place in their mind," Shah said.
Gandhi attacked the BJP and RSS over the JNU row at a party meeting in Gohpur in Assam's Sonitpur district.
"The BJP and RSS are following an agenda of creating divide and hatred, as can be seen from the recent developments in JNU," he said. "They find terrorism everywhere, even in universities and brand anybody who do not agree with their views as terrorists."
Karat said said ever since the Modi government came to power, universities across the country have been under siege and there have been constant attempts to "impose ideological hegemony" on universities.
Karat, who is an ex-JNUSU president, made these remarks during his visit to the university campus to express solidarity with the protesting students.