A comment made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Indians in the US referring to allegations of corruption under the previous government to buttress his own claim to incorruptibility sparked a war of words between his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, with the latter’s spokesman saying the Prime Minister needs “serious counselling".

Addressing an Indian diaspora gathering at the SAP Center in San Jose on Sunday, Modi said, “In our country, it doesn’t take much time for allegations to come up against politicians. Someone’s son made 250 crore, daughter made 500 crore, damaad (son-in-law) made 1,000 crore..."

The mention of son-in-law was seen an oblique reference to Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, Robert Vadra, who has come under BJP fire for alleged corruption when the Congress was in power.

“Aren’t you sick of hearing all of this? Isn’t the country disappointed? Aren’t you angry against and hateful at corruption? My countrymen, I am standing in your midst. Is there any allegation against me?" Modi asked, and the audience responded, “No."

This is not the first time Modi’s comments abroad has created a controversy.

In his visit to China in May, Modi had said at one point of time, it was considered a misfortune to be born in India and called an Indian, whereas in a visit to Canada, he had said that he wants to change India’s image from Scam India to Skill India.

The Congress has maintained that it is unfair to drag internal political issues on international tours.

On Monday, too, the Congress party accused the Prime Minister of being hypocritical and taking up such issues on foreign lands, while the BJP retaliated that that Congress was unnecessarily perturbed since Modi did not take any names.

“The Prime Minister has dragged the political narrative to the gutter level... His mindset is I, me, myself...is a matter of national concern...his unhealthy mindset...it is disturbing and he needs very serious counselling", Anand Sharma, Congress spokesman and former commerce minister, told reporters on Monday.

In Hyderabad, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu defended Modi: “The Prime Minister has not taken names of any party or person. Then why should the Congress get disturbed? Perturbed? We are not able to understand. The Prime Minister, during his visits, has been explaining the situation, developments in India to the Indian diaspora. Nobody should have any objection over that," he said.

Modi arrived in the US on 23 September on a five-day visit.

His engagements began in New York, but over the weekend, he was in San Jose, California, to meet the representatives of Silicon Valley, a number of whom are of Indian origin.

His address to the Indian community was part of his outreach to the diaspora.

“It is one thing to talk about changing India’s image from scam to skill, but talking about mother, son and son-in-law is unnecessary. I think his comments show a lack of political skill in dealing with his political opponents. The Congress party already does not support the government on some legislations in Parliament, and this continued attack on the Congress will provoke it further to not cooperate," said S.L. Rao, a Bengaluru-based sociologist and former director general of the National Council for Applied Economic Research.

“What Modi needs here is tremendous amount of skill to deal with the governance issues; he should try and be magnanimous while dealing with the opposition," he added.

PTI contributed to this story.

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