Tabassum Rao, the wife of Karnataka Congress President Dinesh Gundu Rao, on Monday called out Union minister Anantkumar Hegde for his “disrespectful statements” about her and her family. She took to social media to express her displeasure at Bharatiya Janata Party leaders for using her as a “soft target”.

Hegde dragged Tabassum Rao into a Twitter spat on Sunday while taking a dig at her husband. His comment came hours after he said that anyone who harasses Hindu women must be severely punished.

Tabassum Rao accused Hegde of making misogynistic remarks. “I have never made any personal remarks against any BJP leader and I strongly resent them using me as a pawn in their cheap politics,” she wrote on Facebook. “If they have the courage, they should challenge my husband politically instead of hiding behind a housewife’s saree and throwing stones.”

She claimed that the minister has blocked her on social media. “I have tried to engage Mr Hegde on Twitter, but instead of responding, he has blocked me,” Tabassum Rao said. “Karnataka politicians are generally known for their maturity and dignity. I would urge Mr Hegde and his colleagues not to sully the image of our state through their vitriolic statements and demeaning remarks against women.”

The Congress leader’s wife also asked BJP MPs Shobha Karandlaje and Pratap Simha why they had brought up her up name. “I do not hold any party or public position,” she pointed out.

On Sunday, Hegde criticised Rao after the Congress leader asked him about his achievements as a minister and a parliamentarian. “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.”

In response, Hegde had asked the Congress leader to talk about his own achievements. “I only know him as a guy who ran behind a Muslim lady,” he had said.