Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday stirred a controversy after he referred to Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Massod Azhar as 'Masood Azhar ji' giving fresh ammunitions to the BJP, which said the Congress "loves terrorists."
While addressing the party's booth presidents in the national capital's Indira Gandhi Stadium, Gandhi while hitting out at the National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval said, "Over 40 security personnel died in the Pulwama terrorist attack in Kashmir for which the responsibility was owned up by Pakistani terrorist outfit Jaish-E-Mohammed.
"It may be recalled that the chief of Jaish, Masood Azhar ji, who was in an Indian jail, was taken to Kandahar by NSA chief Ajit Doval during the previous BJP government, and set him free," he said.
The BJP leaders soon got an ammunition to hit back at the Congress.
Union Minister Smriti Irani said, "What is common between Rahul Gandhi and Pakistan? Their love for terrorists. Please note Rahulji's reverence for terrorist Masood Azhar."
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also took to Twitter and said, "Come on "Rahul Gandhiji! Earlier it was the likes of Digvijayji (Singh) who called 'Osamaji' (Osama Bin Laden) and 'Hafiz Saeed Sahab'. Now you are saying "Masood Azharji". What is happening to Congress Party?"
Union Minister Giriraj Singh also slammed the Congress President for calling the dreaded terrorist 'ji' -- used in Hindi as a mark of respect for an individual.
"Congress has a very special habit. They give a lot of respect to terrorists," he said in a tweet in Hindi.
Countering the BJP, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala termed Gandhi's reference of Azhar as a sarcasm and fired salvos over the release of the terrorist in 1999.
"Two questions to BJP and select Bhakt Media, who deliberately seek to twist the Masood' sarcasm of Rahulji - 1) Did NSA Doval not escort and release terrorist Masood Azhar in Kandahar? 2) Did Modiji not invite Pak's rogue ISI to investigate Pathankot terror attack?" Surjewala questioned.