Rahul Gandhi on Thursday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was "insulting" Sardar Patel by building his statue in Gujarat which is 'Made in China', evoking a sharp reaction from BJP chief Amit Shah who termed his comments "shameful" and accused his family of trying to erase Patel's legacy.
The Congress president was speaking at a public rally in Chitrakoot in Madhya Pradesh where he also hit out at the Modi government over the unemployment issue.
"Narendra Modi ji is making the statue of Sardar Patel in Gujarat. It is the world's tallest statue, it is a good work, but it is 'Made in China'. This is an insult to Sardar Patel... but Sardar Patel's statue cannot be made in China. Wherever you go and see, it is 'Made in China' and the youth in China are getting jobs for it," Gandhi told the rally in the poll-bound state.
Assembly elections are due in the state later this year.
The 182-metre 'Statue of Unity', being built at Sadhu Bet in Narmada district, is slated to be inaugurated by Modi on Patel's birth anniversary on October 31.
Hitting back, Shah attacked Gandhi for his offensive against the prime minister, saying it was a "shame" that at a time when India is united in paying tributes to the country's first home minister by building a grand 'statue of unity', he is "spreading canards" to discredit the project.
It is a very disgraceful statement and the BJP strongly condemns it, he said.
The BJP chief also tweeted ,"Dear Rahul Gandhi, your family humiliated Sardar Patel, unsuccessfully tried to erase his legacy from the people's hearts and minds. Your lies on the 'statue of unity' is another display of your visceral hatred towards Sardar Patel."
During his rally, Gandhi had also claimed while the Modi government is providing employment to 450 people in 24 hours, the Chinese government is providing 50,000 jobs to their youth.
"We are pitted against China and the Indian youth are not seeing a way forward. When Indian youth look at Narendra Modi's stage, they say they cannot have faith in him and this man is lying," the Congress chief said adding "He has spoken a lie to farmers, youth, women."
In his counter-attack, Shah said the country is away of his hate against India and love for China.
"But he will become so blind in his love for China that he will make such disparaging comments against Sardar Patel, is something that is very shameful. The country is hurt with Rahul's shameful remarks," he said.
History is full of examples of the Congress insulting Patel, he said.
Its governments did not give him "Bharat Ratna", India's highest civilian honour, and did not allow an oil painting of him to be installed in Parliament, he said.
Shah alleged that the Congress disrupted even a condolence meeting held to pay homage to him.
Reacting to Gandhi's remarks, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani accused him of "lying shamelessly" while asserting that the statue was made in India.
Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel went further by saying that Gandhi himself was "Made-in-Italy".
"Rahul Gandhi has Italian blood. He is made in Italy. He is a foreigner. But we do not rake up this issue. But, when he is trying to devalue the tallest statue being built here, he should see that he also has Italian blood," Patel said in Ahmedabad.
He said the entire country was feeling proud that the "world's tallest statue" is being built here and asked, "why is Rahul Gandhi not feeling proud about it?"
The Gujarat government went on to clarify that after international tenders were floated for erecting the statue, Indian company Larson and Tubro (L&T) bagged the contract.
It said that 95 per cent making and raw materials of the statue are Indian, while other five per cent parts which were not available in the country were imported from China.
Patel said that L&T being lowest bidder had bagged the contract for building of the statue. "Only some bronze material, for which expertise was not available in India has been imported by the company from China," he added.
Senior BJP leader and union minister Uma Bharti also hit out at Gandhi, saying, "The iron for making Sardar Patel's statue was collected from different villages of the country.