There is nothing Hindu about the Bharatiya Janata Party and its only objective is to get power at any cost, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said on Sunday at an event at the Sciences Po University in Paris.

Gandhi was asked how the Opposition’s INDIA coalition will deal with dismantling the Hindu nationalist rhetoric of the BJP government.

“I have read the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and other Hindu scriptures,” Gandhi said. “And I can say that there is nothing Hindu about what the BJP does, there is absolutely nothing. I have not read anywhere, in no Hindu book, or heard from any learned Hindu person that you should terrorise, harm people who are weaker than you.”

He added that it would be wrong to describe the BJP and its supporters as Hindu nationalists. “They are out to get power at any cost, and they will do anything to get power,” Gandhi said. “They want dominance of a few people and that is what they are about. There is nothing Hindu about them.”

On being asked about his views on reports speculating that the Centre may soon rename India as Bharat, Gandhi said that the Opposition coalition’s name could have been the trigger.

“Maybe we irritated the government a little bit, because we named our coalition INDIA, so that got them more heated up and now they have decided to change the name of the country,” he said. “We could always give our coalition a second name so I don’t think it will solve the purpose but people act in strange ways.”

He added that changing the name of the country was an attempt to deny history. “The fact of the matter is whether we like it or not like it we have a history,” he said. “We were ruled by the British, we fought the British, we defeated the British.”

The Opposition leader also criticised the Narendra Modi government for misusing laws to intimidate journalists, other members of civil society. “We are going through turbulance in our democratic structure and there are millions of people who are going to defend it,” he said.

The MP from Wayanad also said that the BJP government receives support from crony capitalists. “The idea that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is orchestrating this thing is a gross simplification,” he said. “Mr Narendra Modi is an instrument of this architecture and I am pretty confident that the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] can get rid of Modi in five minutes if they want to.”

Gandhi also told the students in France’s capital city that it was important to question the BJP government on unemployment in the context of its claims on economic growth.

“We keep talking about economic growth but have you ever read the employment question next to reports on economic growth,” Gandhi said. “Has anybody questioned that we are growing at 7% but we have the highest unemployment rate in 40 years. We can grow at 9% and give none of you jobs.”

The Congress MP also said that the INDIA alliance, if voted to power, will address the problem of underrepresentation of Dalits and Other Backward Classes in governance and corporate offices.