Union minister Anantkumar Hegde late on Sunday took a swipe at a Congress leader by bringing up his Muslim wife in a Twitter argument, hours after controversially stating that anyone who harasses a Hindu woman must be severely punished.

Karnataka Congress president Dinesh Gundu Rao found himself at the receiving end after he had criticised Hegde’s remarks and queried him about his achievements as a minister or an MP. “What are your contributions for Karnataka’s development?” Gundu Rao had tweeted. “All I can say for sure, it’s deplorable that such people have become and have managed to get elected as MPs.”

Responding to the tweet, Hegde said he would definitely answer Gundu Rao’s queries. Before that, however, Hedge asked the Congress leader to reveal his own achievements. “I only know him as a guy who ran behind a Muslim lady,” Hegde tweeted, referring to Gundu Rao’s wife, Tabassum Rao.

Gundu Rao accused Hegde of stooping low. “Guess it’s his lack of culture. Guess he hasn’t learnt from our Hindu scriptures,” tweeted the Congress leader. “Time hasn’t run out, he can still try and become a more dignified human.”

The controversy stemmed from Hegde’s inflammatory comments at a public rally in Kodagu district where the BJP MP had said that “if a Hindu girl is touched by a hand, then that hand should not exist”.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi said Hegde was unfit to be a Union minister and deserved to be sacked. “This man is an embarrassment to every Indian,” Gandhi tweeted on Monday.