PM Modi targeted Akhilesh Yadav's family in an election rally in Uttar Pradesh. Photograph: (AFP)
BJP is going to town over the "disloyalty" shown by Akhilesh to his father by forming a poll alliance with Congress
Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh: Dwelling on the father-son divide in Uttar Pradesh's Samajwadi Party (SP), Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi chose to remind the north Indian state's chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, of the alleged attempt on his father's life in 1984 by a Congress party member.
"I want to ask how Akhilesh forgot the attack carried out on Mulayam (Singh) Yadav by Congress in 1984... What can be more shameful than befriending those who tried to murder one's father?... They cannot be pardoned." Modi was campaigning for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that leads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) federal government.
That Modi chose to drive home the jibe in Yadav's family turf Kannauj that is a part of the Lok Sabha constituency Akhilesh's wife, Dimple, represents in the Indian Parliament, is central to the BJP's attack on the SP-Congress combine contesting together in the assembly polls for India's most populous state. Akhilesh's dramatic and rather public fallout with his father, Mulayam Singh, SP founder, and the way he wrested control of the party leadership is being touted by the BJP as a sign of disloyalty by the son with his father, something unacceptable in Indian culture.
Speaking in Hindi, Modi told the gathering in Kannauj, "Has politics been degraded to such an extent that for the love of power such a thing (joining hands with Congress) would be done?"
This is also the first time an Indian Prime Minister has visited Kannauj, perhaps as a nod to Akhilesh Yadav's growing clout in a state considered central to Indian politics, being its most populous and having a direct bearing on the number of Members of Parliament seats a party gets in the Rajya Sabha or the Upper House of Indian Parliament.
"Fed up of attacks by Mulayam Singh as leader of the opposition in the state assembly, Congress got shots fired at him on March 4, 1984, but he survived... I want to tell Akhilesh that he should have remembered this incident before sitting in the lap of Congress," Modi said in a pointed attack on Akhilesh Yadav's family dynamics, something the BJP has been using to discredit the SP for a while.
He also went on to add, "Akhileshji ko abhi anubhav kum hain, Congress wale kitne chatur hain inko samajh nahi aata... Mulayam ji ko toh pata tha (Akhilesh has less experience. He does not understand how cunning Congress people are. Mulayam knew about it)."
On March 4, 1984, Mulayam Singh's car was fired at while he was on his way to Lucknow from Etawah in UP. The name of a powerful Congress politician had come up in connection with the shooting.
Attacking the SP-Congress alliance in the state poll, Modi said the two parties were campaigning against each other before the announcement of polls "but came together after the interval to enter into the alliance for the elections".
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's tempered response to Dalit leader Mayawati, who leads the Bahujan Samaj Party, at the joint press conference with Akhilesh for announcing the alliance with SP also drew the fire from Modi who called it Congress's "three-legged race with one leg tied to Bahujan Samaj Party and another to Samajwadi Party".
"During the first press conference after the alliance, Akhilesh had attacked Mayawati, but when Congress vice-president was asked about her, he said he had nothing to say against her," Modi said.
Gandhi had said, "I personally respect Mayawati. Although BSP ruled in Uttar Pradesh and made some mistakes, my respect for her is intact".
This had prompted BJP to dub BSP as a hidden partner of Congress-Samajwadi Party.
However, Akhilesh seemed in no hurry to endorse the Prime Minister's take on his equation with Mayawati whom he calls buaji (father's sister) in jest in his poll speeches.
He told voters in Uttar Pradesh's Unnao today that they should not trust the BSP as it might join hands with BJP after the assembly elections.
"Buaji (Mayawati) is saying she will sit in the opposition if she is unable to form government. Elections are not over yet, but she is ready to sit in the opposition.
"She cannot be relied upon. She can join hands with anyone. She had celebrated 'Rakshabandhan' with a BJP leader earlier and she can do it in the future also," Akhilesh said at an election rally in Unnao.
His remarks came after Mayawati said that she would rather be in the opposition than form an alliance with BJP to form the government in Uttar Pradesh and accused the saffron party of spreading rumours of a coalition with BSP.
On Wednesday, however, the BSP chief seemed pleased with the polling trend in the second phase of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly poll, saying it indicated that her party was surging towards getting a majority.
"Just like the first phase, the second phase of polling in 67 seats which took place today is a good indication that BSP is coming to power in UP with full majority," she said in a statement here.
(WION with agency inputs)