Telangana Minister KT Rama Rao on Monday asked why should India apologise for the “hate speeches” of “BJP bigots”.

His remarks were in reference to the controversy that erupted after Bharatiya Janata Party spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal made derogatory remarks about Prophet Muhammad last week. Sharma was suspended and Jindal expelled by the BJP on Sunday.

Many West Asian countries such as Pakistan, Qatar, Iran, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia expressed wide discontent over Sharma’s remarks and summoned Indian envoys. Several hashtags calling for the boycott of Indian products were seen trending on Twitter in Arab countries on Sunday.

“It is [the] BJP that should apologise, not India as a nation,” Rao said in a tweet addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Your party [BJP] should first apologise to Indians at home for spewing and spreading hatred day in and day out.”

Several Opposition leaders also held the BJP accountable for the criticism received from foreign nations.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said that India should not suffer the brunt of mistakes committed by the BJP. He also said that no Indian was at fault in this matter.

“Prime Minister, if you would have stopped your bhakts [followers] and TV anchors who spew poison, it would not have been necessary for us to bow our heads,” Khera said. “You should apologise to all Indians for humiliating them.”

On Sunday, the Congress said that the action against Sharma and Jindal came under “duress of threats from external powers” which exposed “the much-touted muscular posturing and positioning of the BJP and the Narendra Modi government”.

“The truth is that the BJP has pushed India into a dark age of religious polarisation to subserve its parochial political agenda in the short term,” the party said in a statement. “Its leaders, as well as workers, have perpetrated only one thing and that is creating a schism in India’s universally celebrated idea of unity in diversity.”

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that Sharma’s suspension was a sham.

“Fringe is mainstream,” he said. “Backed by none less than Amit Shah. Is this why cops still haven’t arrested anyone? Suspension is a sham.”

Trinamool Congress leader Yashwant Sinha said that the fringe elements are now in the Centre. He was referring to India’s response to Qatar’s demand of an apology. India had said that the controversial remarks were views of “fringe elements” and did not reflect the views of the Union government.

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi alleged that remarks by the BJP spokespersons have put thousands of Indian working in Arab countries at risk.

“For their domestic audience to be fed with hate, they put at risk thousands of Indians working in Middle East countries, damage long-standing relationships India has had, and destroy Indian businesses,” Chaturvedi said.

Nearly 6.5 million Indians live in the Gulf nations, The Indian Express reported citing official data. Apart from being dependent on crude oil and gas, India also enjoys trading relations with many of these countries in the region.