Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday claimed that he had hugged Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament in July to “remove hatred”. Gandhi was addressing a rally of the party’s Seva Dal in Ajmer in Rajasthan.

Gandhi said the Bharatiya Janata Party abuses him and his family, but he had instead hugged the prime minister. “We should understand that we cannot fight BJP’s hate with hate,” Gandhi said. “I hugged Mr. Modi to remove that hatred,” he said.

On the protests in the North East states over the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Gandhi said: “They set the entire Northeast on fire, however, we will make sure we conquer it with love”, reported Hindustan Times.

Gandhi said Modi had insulted the people of this country when he said India was a “sleeping giant” before 2014, when the BJP came to power. “He means that Pt. Nehru, Dr. Ambedkar, our farmers, small businesses did not do anything before him,” Gandhi said. “He is not insulting Congress by saying this, but insulting the people of this country.”

Gandhi said the Congress governments in Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition in Karnataka had waived farm loans, whereas Modi had “waived loans” worth Rs 3,50,000 crore of businessman Anil Ambani and fugitive diamond jewellers Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.

BJP-RSS believe that India is a product that should benefit a handful of their richest friends,” he said. “We believe in justice for all. It does not make a difference to BJP if farmers commit suicide or people have to stand in queues during demonetisation. Their sole intention is to benefit India’s richest.”

Gandhi said the Seva Dal, the party’s grassroots front organisation, is the Congress’s first line of defence. “You are the backbone of our organisation,” he said, adding that the Seva Dal needs to be strengthened.

The Congress chief will also launch the party’s Lok Sabha campaign in Gujarat from Valsad on Thursday, reported Hindustan Times.