The Congress on Tuesday sacked Meerut district president Vinay Pradhan for apparently addressing Rahul Gandhi as “pappu” in a message that he had purportedly posted on the local Congress WhatsApp group, The Times of India reported. The message was written lauding the Congress vice president for his recent attempt to visit violence-hit Mandsaur where five farmers were killed in police firing last week.

“Rahul Gandhi is also known as Pappu by a section of people in this country,” the message posted on “Indian National Congress” WhatsApp group read, according to The Hindu. “Pappu never took part in parties thrown by industrialists like Adani and Ambani because Pappu knew that these people would only exploit the common people’s resources. Pappu could have easily become the prime minister of this country but he did not.”

The message did not go down well with the senior party leaders and Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee Chief Raj Babbar on Tuesday removed Pradhan from all party posts. In a letter, Chairman of Congress’ Disciplinary Committee Ramkrishna Dwivedi said Pradhan was sacked for “violating the constitution of Congress party”, The Times of India reported. “This is an attempt to malign the party leadership. Other parties appear to be involved in this,” he said.

However, Pradhan claimed that the message was not sent by him and alleged that some people were trying to malign him. “The screenshots being circulated have been photoshopped,” he told the English daily. “I respect Rahul Gandhiji and would never use such language for him. The party should have at least heard me out before removing me from all posts.”