Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday claimed that the Congress has branded “peace-loving Hindus” as terrorists and insulted followers of the religion. The prime minister said at a rally in Maharashtra’s Wardha that the Congress had coined the term “Hindu terror”, PTI reported.

The prime minister also implied that the reason Congress chief Rahul Gandhi decided to contest from a second seat, Wayanad in Kerala, was that the party is scared of contesting from constituencies dominated by the Hindu community. “Congress used the term ‘Hindu terror’ labelled the peace-loving Hindus as there a single incident of Hindu terrorism?” Modi said.

According to unofficial demographic data, Muslims account for 45% of the electorate in this constituency while Hindus comprise 41% and Christians 13%. The BJP on Sunday had accused Gandhi of indulging in politics of appeasement by deciding to contest from Wayanad.

“Congress insulted Hindus...people have decided to punish it in election...hence, it is scared of fielding candidate from constituencies dominated by majority population,” the prime minister claimed. Modi said the Congress had defamed the 5,000-year-old Indian civilisation by coining the term “Hindu terror”.

A National Investigation Agency court had on March 20 acquitted all the accused in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts case. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had later said that the Congress must apologise for floating the “Hindu terror” theory.

Modi claimed that Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar backed out of contesting the Lok Sabha polls because he could see that the wind was “blowing the other way”. Modi alleged that Pawar had wanted to be the prime minister and had even made this desire known.

The prime minister claimed that the Congress’ “abuse” is like an ornament for him. He claimed that by being a “chowkidar of toilets”, he was protecting the dignity of women.

The Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19, with the results will be announced on May 23.

Later in the day, BJP President Amit Shah also claimed the Congress was trying to defame Hindus by linking them with terrorism, reported PTI. Shah, during a rally in Berhampur in Odisha, said, “Rahul [Gandhi] Baba’s party attempted to link the Hindu community with terrorism was a bid to defame Hindus across the world. Unfortunately, the then Congress government compromised with national security by allowing the real culprits in the [Samjhauta Express] case to go scot-free.” He claimed the Congress had no concern for national security, PTI reported.

Shah added that only the government under Modi could have conducted the strikes on Balakot, Pakistan. “Effective air strike was carried out and terror camps inside Pakistan were destroyed. Such decisive action can only be taken by a BJP government,” he said.