The Congress on Thursday hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for alleging that the late Rajiv Gandhi used INS Viraat as “personal taxi” on a family vacation, saying he is a “serial liar” who does not have the courage to fight elections on issues such as unemployment and demonetisation.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said retired Indian Navy Vice Admiral Vinod Pasricha has clarified that the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was on an official visit on INS Viraat and not on a vacation.

“But facts don’t matter to Modi. He doesn’t have anything to talk about his own achievements. Rahul Gandhi has been challenging him for the last six months now to debate on Rafale deal, demonetisation, unemployment, but Modi does not have the courage to speak,” he said at a press conference.

Taking a swipe at Modi for making allegations against Rajiv Gandhi who is no more, Khera said has anyone read about former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru saying that his next election will be against Mughal emperor Humayun, or Indira Gandhi making her entire campaign against Queen Victoria.

“We are now hearing that. Modi ji tells us that 30 years ago Rajiv Gandhi went for a holiday in INS Viraat. Prime Minister is a serial liar. A senior official has exposed his lies today. Vice Admiral (retd) Vinod Pasricha appeared on channels some time back and stated that this is a lie and the then PM was on an official visit and not on a holiday,” he said.

Khera said Modi is the first Prime Minister who asks for votes on his “failures” and Pulwama was an example of this.

“It was a big intelligence failure. We lost our soldiers due to this monumental failure in internal security,” Khera alleged.

The Congress leader also dared Modi to name the people he takes on foreign trips.

“We have seen the campaign, there has been no mention of demonetisation. But you tremble when it is mentioned and hide behind Rajiv Gandhi,” he said

Khera also slammed the Prime Minister for raising the Bofors issue saying it was a BJP-led government at the Centre when the Delhi High Court gave a clean chit to Rajiv Gandhi.

It was Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government that decided against appealing the order, he said.

“We will debate on Bofors provided you are ready to debate on Rafale,” Khera said.

“Those who are no more cannot come and respond to you. Have the courage to respond to those who are there to fight you and are challenging you to a debate on Rafale, on unemployment, on demonetisation, on rural distress on faulty implementation of the GST,” he said.

Earlier, Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel on Thursday said abusing a martyred Prime Minister is the sign of “ultimate cowardice”.

“Rajiv ji lost his life due to their hatred and is no longer here amongst us to answer the baseless allegations and abuses which are being unleashed on him. Abusing a martyred Prime Minister is the sign of ultimate cowardice,” Patel tweeted.

“But who is responsible for his assassination? The BJP backed VP Singh government refused to provide him with additional security and left him with one PSO despite credible intelligence inputs and repeated requests,” he alleged.

Prime Minister Modi, at a rally in New Delhi on Wednesday, accused the Gandhi family of using warship INS Viraat as its “personal taxi” for a holiday when Rajiv Gandhi was at the helm, launching a fresh attack on the late Congress leader days after throwing the “bhrashtachari no 1” barb at him.

“Ever imagined that a premier warship of the Indian armed forces could be used as a taxi for a personal holiday? One dynasty did it,” Modi had asked.

The Navy was made to host the Gandhi family and Rajiv Gandhi’s in-laws, and a helicopter was also deployed in their service, Modi claimed, adding that when a family becomes supreme, the country’s security is at stake.

“INS Viraat was insulted by using it as a personal taxi. This happened when Rajiv Gandhi and his family was out for a 10-day vacation. INS Viraat was deployed for securing our maritime boundary. But it was diverted to take the Gandhi family which was out for a vacation,” Modi had said.

Congress leaders, including its president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, have hit out at Modi for his barb at their father, who was India’s prime minister between 1984-89.