The Congress on Thursday accused the BJP of giving a "communal colour" to the killing of a pregnant elephant in Kerala and said the saffron party leaders were deliberately spreading "false information" on the issue.
The 15-year-old elephant is suspected to have consumed a pineapple filled with powerful firecrackers which exploded in the animal's mouth and it died in the Velliyar River about a week later.
The opposition party said while the incident took place in Palakkad, BJP leaders and right-wing trolls were relating it to the neighbouring Malappuram district.
Three suspects are under the scanner of teams probing the gory death of the pregnant wild elephant in Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, as he alleged some people, including Union ministers, were using the incident to tarnish the image of the state.
Congress general secretary (Organisation) K C Venugopal demanded that the BJP must tender an unqualified and unconditional public apology for giving a communal colour to the "most unfortunate incident".
The tragic and inhumane death of the pregnant elephant caused by biting a pineapple stuffed with explosives or fire crackers in Palakkad district in Kerala is a most cruel incident, he said in a statement.
It invited condemnation and criticism across the world, Venugopal said, adding that any kind of mindless and unreasonable violence against wildlife was totally unacceptable and unjustifiable.
"However, senior BJP leaders like Maneka Gandhi and Cabinet Ministers like Prakash Javadekar are deliberately spreading false information on this unfortunate tragedy," he said.
Although the incident took place in Palakkad district, the ministers and right-wing trolls are relating the incident to the neighbouring Malappuram district, Venugopal said.
"They are deliberately spreading communally motivated false information on the district. Furthermore, without any connection whatsoever, they even dragged the name of Rahul Gandhi in this diabolic incident," he alleged.
Venugopal claimed that the "propaganda" has proven once again that the BJP would stoop to any level to twist facts for its narrow divisive political purposes.
"They are shedding crocodile tears over the incident and this divisive propaganda has exposed the BJP's hypocrisy totally," he said.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said the climate in the country has become so bitter that even in the tragic death of an elephant, some were trying to misrepresent facts to twist it into an issue of one community versus another.
Union Environment Minister Javadekar earlier said that it was not in Indian culture to feed firecrackers and kill.
Tweeting about the incident that has taken social media by storm, Javadekar said the government would not leave any stone unturned to bring the culprit to book.
"Central Government has taken a very serious note of the killing of an elephant in Mallapuram, #Kerala. We will not leave any stone unturned to investigate properly and nab the culprit(s). This is not an Indian culture to feed fire crackers and kill (sic)," he said in a tweet.
BJP MP and former Union minister Maneka Gandhi tweeted that Malappuram was known for "its intense criminal activity", specially "with regard to animals".
"In spite of having clarified that the incident took place in Palakkad and not in Malappuram as being propagated, people including central ministers are still not willing to correct the mistake. It now looks like they are doing it deliberately. This is not acceptable and any efforts to spread hatred using this incident will not be tolerated," Vijayan told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.