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Congress riot barb at Modi

New Delhi, Jan. 23: Narendra Modi today taunted Mulayam Singh Yadav, saying the heartland leader would never be able to transform Uttar Pradesh into another Gujarat, drawing the Congress into the verbal duel.

“Gujarat has been living a life of peace and harmony, Netaji, for the last 10 years, which you would not be able to achieve here,” the BJP’s 2014 mascot told a rally in Gorakhpur, hours after the Samajwadi Party chief had said he wouldn’t be able to “turn Uttar Pradesh into Gujarat”.

Addressing a “Desh Bachao, Desh Banao” rally in Varanasi, Mulayam, a former Uttar Pradesh chief minister whose son Akhilesh now heads the state government, had said “please think again, you will not be in a position to do a Gujarat”.

Although the context was Modi’s oft-repeated remark that the BJP would turn the heartland into another Gujarat, Mulayam was alluding to the 2002 riots in the western state.

Modi, however, turned the duel into a development debate. “Mulayam Singh said that Modiji cannot make UP into Gujarat,” Modi told the rally in Gorakhpur. “Netaji, do you know the meaning of making Gujarat? 24x7 electricity in every single village. You are correct, Netaji, you cannot make Gujarat. For this a 56-inch chest is required,” he said.

“You are destroying this big state,” he added.

The Congress waded into the duel, with a party spokesperson saying he would “request” the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister not to replicate elsewhere what he did in his state.

“We request Modi not to turn any other state into Gujarat,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, alluding to the 2002 riots. “Please don’t apply that model in any other state.”

The war is bound to escalate in the lead-up to the national elections as the Congress has decided to portray Modi as an intolerant and bigoted leader.

Asked about Modi’s acerbic barbs, Surjewala said: “It has been Modi’s habit to ridicule and insult leaders of other parties. This has become his character. He should understand that denigrating and denouncing political opponents by phraseology and slogans won’t help the country move forward and hence he should focus on issues of public concern.”

Asked what these issues were, he said: “Ending discrimination against people, empowering weaker sections, creating employment and using the might of the state to ensure the cohesive nature of our society.”

The Congress has often accused Modi of working for the rich and ignoring the weaker sections.

Asked why the party had not pulled up Union home minister Sushil Shinde for his “mad CM” remark, Surjewala said: “Shinde is a mature politician and he kept his cool even when AAP leaders were using abusive language against him and making baseless charges. He never said (Arvind) Kejriwal is mad. In Marathi, the word ‘veda’ is also used to describe a person who is ignorant and lacks understanding. What Shinde meant is that the (Delhi) chief minister was ignorant of rules and the Constitution.”

Shinde had yesterday said that he had to once cancel his “honeymoon leave” as a policeman because of the riots in Mumbai. Now he had to cancel the leave of many policemen because of the “veda CM” who created trouble on the streets of Delhi.