The understanding in the BJP that the Congress will block the passage of the GST Bill [Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014] owing to the National Herald case pushed the ruling party to mount a strident counter-offensive, with senior ministers taking turns to attack Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu’s customary birthday greetings to Congress President Sonia Gandhi did nothing to improve the atmospherics in Parliament, where the Congress Vice-President claimed that the National Herald case was “100 per cent vendetta by the PM’s office”.

A top BJP leader confessed that “expectations (from the Winter Session) were low to begin with. And now with this issue (National Herald), all hopes have been dashed”. The only logical course under the circumstances is to react politically and drive home the point that the Congress is shielding its top leaders from charges of corruption by blocking Parliament, he said.

Accordingly, from ministers in the Parliamentary Affairs department – M Venkaiah Naidu, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Rajiv Pratap Rudy – to Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore, the message being delivered was that the Congress was holding GST to ransom because its leaders are embroiled in corruption cases.

Venkaiah told BusinessLine that “no one can have any sympathy for politicians who use parliamentary disruptions as a tactic to bully the judiciary”. “This is going to backfire on them,” he said.

Venkaiah told reporters later that the Congress was “seeking to convert a family problem into a national issue. They are misusing Parliament for family interests”. Naidu described the Congress as the “biggest threat to democracy”. “I also agree that vendetta politics is being played out. But again, it is the Congress which is doing it. Not accepting the mandate of the people to the Modi government is a clear danger to democracy. Trying to prevent governance and stalling legislations through unconstitutional and undemocratic tactics as is being done by the Congress is a clear danger to democracy,” the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said.

Rudy followed suit by asserting that Rahul Gandhi “does not have the courage” to present his case in Parliament, while he has been speaking to the media outside. “We should ask Rahul Gandhi, if he has courage enough, if he has honesty enough, if he has standing as a leader of his political party, he should come to Parliament and give proof of the statement he has made against the judiciary. The proof of the statement he has made against the government and the PMO,” Rudy said.

Gadkari asked the Congress to resolve the matter in court as the government and Parliament had nothing to do with it. “The House or government has nothing got to do with this (National Herald case) either directly or indirectly. It’s a court decision. Wasting Parliament’s time is not good for democracy,” he said.

Rathore said the Congress was “attacking judiciary” as the matter lay with the court. “Who does not know which party has been doing the politics of vendetta for the past so many years? And if they are saying ‘vendetta’, that means Congress is blaming the judiciary,” Rathore said.