In an apparent bid to counter Sonia Gandhi’s “magician jibe,” BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Thursday hit back, saying the Congress was siphoning off money meant for the poor by sleight of hand.

Addressing an election rally here, Mr. Modi pointed out that Rajiv Gandhi said just 15 paise out of every one rupee spent by the government reached intended beneficiaries and now the Planning Commission said it was only 12 paise. “What kind of hand is this that pares off the major part of the rupee, leaving just 12 paise for the others? Its expertise in embezzling the treasury is quite evident,” Mr. Modi charged.

“At night you don’t know where the safe is. The RJD [Rashtriya Janata Dal] shows the lantern and the Congress hand just clears up the vaults,” he said. .

Accusing the UPA government at the Centre of being “deaf, dumb, lame and remote controlled,” he said the country needed a strong government.

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