Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has denied ever using the term “Hindu terror”, and claimed that the person who coined the phrase was now in the Bharatiya Janata Party. In an interview with The Hindu, Singh said it was on the BJP’s agenda to target him for allegedly using the phrase.

“The person who coined the phrase ‘Hindu terror’, [former Union Home Secretary] RK Singh, was given BJP ticket and inducted into the Cabinet,” Singh said. “So, if anyone in the BJP wants to oppose the person who called Hindus terrorists, they should oppose Mr Singh.”

RK Singh was the home secretary during the rule of the Congress-led government. After joining the BJP post-retirement in 2013, he claimed he had never used the phrase “Hindu terror” and it was Congress leader and former Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde who coined it. RK Singh is now a minister in the Modi government.

Digvijaya Singh, a former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, is his party’s candidate from Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency, which will vote on May 12. His BJP opponent is Pragya Singh Thakur, a sadhvi who was accused of a role in the Malegaon blasts when a Congress-led government was in power.

Senior BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah, have defended Thakur’s candidature, saying it is a symbol in response to all those who have demeaned a great civilisation and floated the theory of “Hindu terror”. Thakur is out on bail, and the BJP has repeatedly claimed the theory is false.

“I have never said it,” Singh told The Hindu. “Show me a clip where I have called Hindus terrorists. I am a Hindu myself. Why should I call myself a terrorist?”

“Let me put it on record that I am a devout Hindu and a much-better practising Hindu than anyone of them,” he claimed. “I don’t drag religion into politics. I fight my elections concerning people, their goals, their difficulties, their aspirations, their hopes. Jobs, poverty, infrastructure, these are my issues for the election. Religion is an issue for every person to decide for himself.”

Singh has predicted that the Congress will win at least 14 to 16 seats out of the 29 Lok Sabha constituencies in Madhya Pradesh.