A day after voting in Punjab and Goa, the focus sharpened on Uttar Pradesh where an raged between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the duo of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav for the second successive day.
The big guns from the parties boomed in the bellwether state which goes to polls in seven phases beginning February 11, when 73 constituencies of the communally and politically volatile western UP go to polls.
After coining ‘SCAM’ in Meerut on Saturday to target rivals, Modi gave ‘VIKAS’ (development) a new spin at a rally in Aligarh on Sunday. He said the BJP was “riding a wave in UP” and would bring VIKAS — V for vidyut (power), ‘KA’ for ‘kanoon’ (law and order), and ‘S’ for ‘sadak’ (roads). Modi said chief minister Akhilesh Yadav was wary of ‘imminent defeat’ and had formed an alliance with the Congress.
“And when the wind is so strong, even a young leader cannot face it and seeks help of anything… even a pole… but this time BJP ‘aandhi’ (storm) is so strong that the chief minister fears that he might be blown off… The people of UP want change and justice.”
Modi said he had held a rally at the same ground in 2014, but “this time the crowd was double”.
Responding to Modi’s ‘’ barb, which he had expanded as ‘S’ for Samajwadi Party, ‘C’ for Congress, ‘A’ for Akhilesh and ‘M’ for Mayawati, Rahul hit back in Kanpur at a joint rally with Akhilesh, saying, “SCAM also stands for Service, Courage, Ability and Modesty. And all these four things Modi ji lacks.”
He said the BJP was rattled by the SP-Congress alliance and “Modiji, as always, was spinning lies to mislead people”.
Akhilesh had responded to the barb on Saturday, interpreting ‘SCAM’ as “Save the Country from Amit Shah and Modi”.
BJP president Shah too was on campaign trail in west UP’s Shamli district. Addressing a rally in Thanabhawan, he promised to put an end to “exodus” of Hindus from Kairana and other areas if the BJP came to power in the state. Targeting the SP government, Shah alleged that every day 13 murders, 24 rape cases and 150 incidents of loot were reported in the state.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati took a day’s break from her west UP campaign and is expected to hit the trail in Agra on Monday.
(With inputs from Vasistha Bhardwaj in Muzaffarnagar and agencies)