New Delhi: The BJP on Thursday insisted on an apology from Rahul Gandhi and asked him to "first demonstrate" his regret as the Congress leader met Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla seeking permission to speak in the House amid an impasse in Parliament over his comments in Britain on the state of democracy in India.
Union ministers Piyush Goyal and Pralhad Joshi told reporters after another day of washout of parliamentary proceedings that not only MPs but the entire country is angry over his comments which gravely insulted not just Parliament but the entire nation.
He has levelled "absolutely baseless and false allegations without any iota of truth," Goyal said even as the Congress rejected the BJP's charge and ruled out any apology from its former president.
Gandhi has to first demonstrate publicly that he is apologising for the mistake he has made, Goyal said, replying to a question about the Congress leader's stand on the issue.
Gandhi himself appeared unfazed by the political storm raging over his comments made at different events in Britain.
Taking a swipe at the Congress leader, who was also in Lok Sabha before it was adjourned for the day, Goyal said he is behaving as if he has come after performing some "great act of patriotism" without showing any sign of remorse.
The BJP has accused him of seeking intervention of foreign powers in India by portraying the state of democracy in the country in a poor light. With the ruling party seizing on his remarks and seeking his apology and the Congress remaining unfazed, the second leg of the session which began on Monday has been a washout so far.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Joshi said, "India's prestige has not been attacked in such a manner before. Political differences may be there but there cannot be a graver crime than to seek interference from foreign powers. Anger prevails across the country for the grave insult Rahul Gandhi has inflicted upon what even the world acknowledges as the mother of democracy." He should seek an apology as this is what MPs and the country are demanding, he said.
Joshi insisted that parties other than the BJP are also demanding Gandhi's apology.
Goyal said Gandhi has demonstrated his and the Congress' small-mindedness by not apologising so far.
To a question if the session is headed for a washout if the Congress sticks to its guns on the issue, Joshi said, "I don't think so." He, however, insisted that other parties are also of the view that he should apologise.
The minister said many precedents exist of senior most leaders apologising in the House and accused Gandhi of belittling the image of Parliament and the Speaker.
During an event in the UK, Gandhi had alleged that the structures of Indian democracy are under attack and there is a "full-scale assault" on the country's institutions.