Uttar Pradesh elections: Contenders take jibes at each other as campaign rhetoric raises stakes

If Uttar Pradesh -- a state with a population of over 200 million -- was a country, it would be the largest national elections held around the world this year. In photo: People stand in queues to cast their vote in the second phase of polling. Photograph:( Reuters )

Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India Feb 19, 2017, 01.09 PM (IST)

India's largest state Uttar Pradesh, which is in the midst of a longdrawn local elections, morphed into a battleground on Sunday as contenders adopted a no holds barred policy while attacking each other.

While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who belongs to the Bharatiya Janata Party, excoriated the ruling Samajwadi Party and its chief minister for being weak, the prepoll alliance of SP and the Congress attacked the BJP for paralysing the citizens due to demonetisation.

Addressing an election campaign in an Uttar Pradesh town Fatehpura, Prime Minister Modi ripped into the SP over religious partisanship, deteriorating law and order and alliance forged with the Congress.

Modi indirectly said the Akhilesh Yadav administration was more keen on appeasing the Muslims. 

"If there is electricity during Ramzan (an Islamic festival of fasting), there should be electricity during Diwali (Hindu festival of lights) too," he said, though the original statement was made in Hindi.

He also spoke about how police were being forced to take orders from the ruling party, calling it a 'goondaraj' (the government of the powerful).

"Police stations have become Samajwadi Pary office. Why is the policing system so inefficient in the state?" Modi asked to the large crowd that massed at his rally.

He also looked at the SP-Congress alliance with suspicion, saying that the ruling party of Uttar Pradesh had shed its philosophy by tying up with a party that has "looted" the country.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav rubbished all negative talks about the alliance on Sunday, saying that it is "not an alliance of two parties but an alliance of two young politicians" determined to improve the state.

After casting his vote in Saifai, Akhilesh said, "The voters have made up their mind in favour of the SP-Congress alliance."

SP leader and Akhilesh's uncle Shivpal Yadav complained that his supporters were attacked by the "political opponents" in his Jaswantnagar constituency.

On Saturday, Congress' Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav attacked BJP's Modi and said his "smile had evaporated" at the news of their alliance.

Using a reference from a popular Hindi film 'Sholay', Gandhi called Modi as the villain of the piece -- Gabbar Singh. 

He also accused Modi of doing little to alleviate the crippling debts of farmers.

"Now he (Modi) is saying let BJP win and he will get the loans waived. Modiji you are the prime minister. You don't have to win elections to waive the debts," he said on Saturday. 

Meanwhile, the third phase of the elections is under way today (February 20) as more than 800 candidates contest 69 assembly seats.