Ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi seen behind bars during his trial at a court in Cairo

Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s likening of the RSS to the Muslim Brotherhood is ironical given that it was the Congress-led UPA government that had in 2013 hosted Mohammed Morsi, then Egyptian president and a key leader of the Brotherhood.

The UPA-II engaged Morsi after he was elected to power following a revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011. Morsi’s visit to India in March 2013 opened a new chapter in Indo-Egyptian ties that had remained stagnant for three decades under Hosni Mubarak.

Expansion of defence ties was a key achievement of Morsi’s trip besides seven agreements that were signed on the occasion across sectors laying foundation for momentum in bilateral partnership visible today. Morsi was overthrown following a street protest few months after his India visit and replaced by his defence minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who remains Egypt’s president. Sisi has visited India twice since 2015, opening new dimensions in the security and economic partnership. Morsi is serving a jail term.

“The RSS is trying to change the nature of India,” the Congress chief said at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London last week. “There is no other organisation in India that wants to capture India’s institutions... What we are dealing with is a completely new idea. It’s an old idea being reborn. It is similar to the idea that exists in the Arab world of the Muslim Brotherhood. The idea is that one ideology should run through every institution and one idea should crush all other ideas.”

Gandhi’s statement invited a sharp response from BJP. “Do you even know what the Muslim Brotherhood is? It is declared a terrorist organisation in a number of countries. You are comparing it with the RSS and BJP,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.

The Muslim Brotherhood was established in Egypt in 1928. Following the 2011 revolution in Egypt, the group was legalised but in 2014, the organisation was declared a terrorist group by Egypt, Russia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

The Muslim Brotherhood established the Freedom and Justice Party with Morsi as the leader in 2011 and during his presidency from 2012 to 13, he tried to emerge as a regional leader.