"This is an insult to the people of Uttar Pradesh. How many times Rahul Gandhi has gone to Maharashtra and has seen people from UP and Bihar begging there. He has hurt the sentiments of the people of UP.... I have never seen a person from UP and Bihar begging in Maharashtra," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
When pointed out that the BJP feels that the terms used by Gandhi were "derogatory", Congress spokesperson Renuka Chaudhary shot back, "BJP itself is derogatory to the nation, to the secular credential of the country... BJP can understand insult only if it can understand honour... They better look in their own backyard than pointing fingers at others."
The war of words between the ruling and the Opposition party began after Gandhi, while kicking off his party's political campaign from Phulpur today, said, "people of Uttar Pradesh are appreciated for their hard work, wherever they go in search of job....How long will you beg in Maharashtra (for work)? How long will you work as labourer in Punjab?...."
He also accused the Mayawati government of being corrupt, having siphoned-off central funds and being insensitive to the poor.
AICC general secretary and media department chief Janardan Dwivedi, however, dismissed BJP's reaction to Gandhi's remarks saying their comments show that they are panicky over the rise of Congress in the state.
Dwivedi said, "the reaction of Opposition parties to what Rahul has said proves the impact of his words. It is evident from the panic of the Opposition that they have now begun fearing the rise of Congress in UP."
He said that what Gandhi said was clearly linked to the state's self-pride (swabhimaan).
"How can this be called an insult? If somebody says that people of his state should not be roaming around here and there in search of livelihood," the AICC leader wondered.
Echoing similar views, Chaudhary also said that Gandhi must have made the remarks to "awaken" the self-pride of "his people" in Uttar Pradesh with whom he shares a "special bond and a relationship of affection".
To repeated questions on the issue, Chaudhary disapproved of singling out one particular word from a full speech saying the context in which Gandhi made the remarks needs to be understood properly.