Modi and Mulayam criticised each other. Kejriwal equated both as "enemies of the people."

Heralding a fierce electoral battle in the crucial battleground State of Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 members to the Lok Sabha, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh pulled no punches in criticising each other on Sunday, even as Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal equated both as “enemies of the people.”

Mr. Modi addressed a rally in the State capital in which the former Chief Minister, Kalyan Singh, rejoined the BJP after a gap of five years, raising the party’s hopes of enhancing its appeal to Other Backward Classes voters.

Getting a majority of seats in Uttar Pradesh is essential for Mr. Modi and Mr. Singh to fulfil their ambitions for the prime leadership position at the national level. The latter has joined the 11-party non-BJP, non-Congress alternative.

Mr. Modi pressed the point that the SP and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) were supporting the UPA government at the Centre and hence were equally responsible for its “all-round failure.”

“They are misleading the people by wearing the veil of secularism to conceal their failures,” the Gujarat Chief Minister said.

Questioning the SP chief’s track record, he said: “In one year of the rule of your son [Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav], more than 150 riots took in Uttar Pradesh, while there was not even a single riot in Gujarat in the past 10 years. Not even a curfew was clamped there. Don’t compare Gujarat to Uttar Pradesh on development,” he said. “Though the heat of elections is yet to be felt, there is a wave in favour of the BJP because of which ‘Sabka Vinash’ [rout of SP, BSP and Congress] is certain ... For them secularism is all about vote bank to mislead the people.”

Speaking in Allahabad, Mr. Singh said Mr. Modi had presided over the “mass murder” of Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots. “You presided over the mass murder of Muslims and after that, your leaders apologise to the community,” he said, referring to BJP president Rajnath Singh’s recent statement that the party was willing to apologise to the community for any mistake.

At a rally in Kanpur, Mr. Kerjiwal trained his guns on Mr. Modi, Mr. Yadav and Ms. Mayawati.

“Only AAP can give an honest government. If you all, Hindus, Muslims and people from other castes come together and do not come under the poisonous influence of other parties, then I can assure you that this time your [people’s] government will be formed in the Centre.”

(With inputs from PTI)