NEW DELHI: The Congress is under attack from the opposition over media reports that it has punished a senior leader after he allegedly referred on a WhatsApp group to party Vice President Rahul Gandhi as "Pappu".
Some BJP leaders including party president Amit Shah and other critics of Mr Gandhi, 46, refer to him disparagingly as "Pappu" (young boy) to suggest he is clueless, usually on social media.
Vivek Pradhan, a Congressman in Meerut, told the Times of India that his messages on a Congress WhatsApp group had been photoshopped to frame him and that he was not given a chance to present his defense to the party. He has been removed as President of the Meerut district and other party posts, according to newspapers.
The Congress has so far not commented on the controversy, but the BJP said that it exposes the party's sycophancy. "Punishment for 'Pappu' followed quickly but there was no penalty for calling the army chief a roadside goon," said BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.
On Sunday, Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit used "sadak ke goonde" to refer to the chief of the army, General Bipin Rawat. Mr Gandhi said the former MP was totally out of line and that it was unacceptably to try and "do politics with the army". However, the BJP has said that Mr Dikshit has been let off with a rap on the wrist and demanded that he be expelled by the Congress.
Mr Pradhan, of the WhatsApp controversy, has said he plans to meet Mr Gandhi to offer an explanation. He will have to wait. Mr Gandhi announced yesterday that he is flying abroad to spend time with his grandmother. His break comes as the Congress is attacking the government over the killing of five farmers by the Madhya Pradesh police at a mass protest and when the opposition is uniting over a possible election for President of India.
Recent revolts by farmers in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, both states governed by the BJP, demanding loan waivers and better prices for their produce have allowed the opposition to claim Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party has no commitment to relieving rural distress.