The BJP PM candidate’s counter-attack comes a day after Congress president’s “zeher ki kheti” barb

Hitting back at Congress president Sonia Gandhi for her “zeher ki kheti” remark, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Sunday said it was the Congress, not the BJP, which was “sowing seeds of poison” with its divisive politics.

“If power is poison, then who has tasted it the most and been in power for most of the duration since independence? Whose belly is full of this poison? Who is spewing this poison? They (Congress) are the ones who sow the seeds of poison," Mr. Modi said.

Ms. Gandhi, while addressing a rally in Gulbarga, Karnataka on Saturday, had accused the BJP of indulging in “zeher ki kheti (sowing seeds of poison)” in its hunger for power. Mr. Modi also taunted Congress vice-president and Ms. Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi for his remarks in Congress’ Jaipur session last month, where he had said that his mother told him “power is poison.”

Addressing the last of his party’s Vijay Shankhnaad Rallies in UP, in Meerut, an hour’s drive from riot-hit Muzaffarnagar, Mr. Modi also promised a “riot-free” UP. “Ten years ago communal riots were common in Ahmadabad. Knifing were commonplace. But today Gujarat is riot-free, because Gujaratis decided to walk the path of development.”

While referring to the turmoil in Andhra Pradesh over the Telangana issue, Mr. Modi said the State was on fire due to the vote bank politics of the Congress, which made states and communities fight among themselves. In contrast, he added, “sweets were distributed in both states” when the BJP carved out Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Uttarakhand in 2000 because “Atalji sowed love.”

Mr. Modi also resumed his jibes at SP supremo Mulayam Singh, who had two days ago said the social welfare budget in UP was more than the entire budget of Gujarat. “Why are the people in UP unhappy despite the budget? Where does the money go? The people want to know.”

Mr. Modi also lashed at the SP government on its dismal law and order calling the party “Samajvirodhi Party.”

In a bid to woo the Jat population, which are traditionally agrarian, Mr. Modi evoked the legacy of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh. “The same State which gave Chaudhary ji, a farmer’s son, has those who believe in Ram Manohar Lohia but are not bothered about farmers.” Significantly, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh, a Jat originally from Meerut, shared the dias with Mr. Modi along with BJP president Rajnath Singh and senior leader Hukum Singh.

The Gujarat Chief Minister said the western UP region, the economic backbone of the State, was neglected. “The 60 lakh farmers don’t have enough to eat,” he said. While pointing to the role of cooperatives and technology in Gujarat’s sugarcane industry, Mr. Modi said production in the State had doubled over the last decade.

Continuing attack on the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, he said the government had failed to protect people from northeast and Africa living in the national capital. “See what's happening under Sonia ji's nose in Delhi. Arunachal's son was hacked to death. Africans were ill treated. Those from the northeast face difficulty in getting houses. Hostels should be made for them.”

This article has been corrected for an editing error.

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