New Delhi: Shashi Tharoor has kicked up a controversy comparing Jawaharlal Nehru University students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who is facing sedition charges, with freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, drawing strong criticism on Monday from the Bharatiya Janata Party while Congress distanced itself from his remarks.

Addressing a group of students at JNU on Sunday, Tharoor, while listing the names of victims of sedition law under British rule had said Bhagat Singh was the Kanhaiya Kumar of his time. “The biggest victims of sedition law under the British rule were Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Annie Besant," he said.

When a girl mentioned Bhagat Singh, Tharoor promptly responded, “Bhagat Singh was the Kanhaiya Kumar of his time." Lashing out at Tharoor’s comments, BJP said it was an insult to the “great freedom fighter" as well as all patriots of the country. “Bhagat Singh went to the gallows chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ while fighting for the country’s independence. Comparing Kanhaiya Kumar with Bhagat Singh is an insult to the freedom fighter and all the patriots. Shashi Tharoor should tell if Kanhaiya is Bhagat Singh, then what are Rahul and Sonia Gandhi," BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain said.

Virtually disapproving Tharoor’s remarks, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari on being asked, told reporters, “There has been only one Bhagat Singh. There is only one Bhagat Singh". Tharoor on his part clarified that he did not intend to equate Kanhaiya with Bhagat Singh.

“You are finding one marginal thing which was said in response to a comment from the audience. Bhagat Singh was fighting colonial rule and foreign oppression and Kanhaiya is fighting for his beliefs in a very different democracy.

“So the situations are different but the comparison (was)-young, Marxist, idealist, passionately committed to their motherland, in their 20s...that’s all," he said.