The Bharatiya Janata Party has responded to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s refusal to apologise for his “rape in India” remark, and his declaration that his name was not “Rahul Savarkar”, Hindustan Times reported on Saturday. The saffron party accused the former Congress chief of practising “Muslim appeasement politics”, and said that he was a more suitable heir of Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

“My name is not Rahul Savarkar,” Gandhi had said hours earlier at a “Bharat Bachao [save the country]” rally at New Delhi’s Ramlila Grounds. “My name is Rahul Gandhi. I will never apologise for truth. I will die but not apologise and neither will any Congress leader apologise.” Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, popularly known as Veer Savarkar, was a Hindutva ideologue.

“The more appropriate name for you Rahul Gandhi is Rahul Jinnah,” said BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao. “Your Muslim appeasement politics and mindset makes you a worthy legatee of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, not Savarkar.”

The saffron party’s Information Technology cell chief Amit Malviya said that Gandhi could never be ‘Rahul Savarkar’ as the Hindutva ideologue was “a national icon”. “...Who has had a civilisational impact on India’s polity and will continue to be revered for generations to come,” he tweeted. “Five generation[s] of Nehru-Gandhi family can’t measure up to his legacy.”

Malviya said that he was looking forward to seeing the Shiv Sena defend Gandhi for his comment “implying that ‘Veer Savarkar was a coward who apologized’!”.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena, which has formed an alliance with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party in Maharashtra hit out at Gandhi, and said: “We respect Pandit Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi,” the party’s leader Sanjay Raut tweeted. “You should not insult Veer Savarkar. No further explanation is needed for anyone sensible.”

In another tweet, Raut said that Savarkar was akin to god not just for Maharashtra but for the whole country. “His name is tinged with national pride and self-respect,” he said. “Like Nehru and Gandhi, he dedicated his life to achieving independence. All such gods should be respected, there is no compromise on this.”