Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi accused the ruling BJP of being a “party of the rich” in his speech in Balaghat on Friday. “I ask BJP leaders in parliament why are they against the MNREGA and food bill. They say when you give it for free, people become lazy, they become useless. They think that the poor are responsible for poverty,” he said at an election rally meeting.

He added that the BJP expected the poor to break the wall of poverty by bashing their heads against it. “The Congress thinks that the government must remove this wall, this barrier stopping the poor from progressing, from adding quality to their life,” he said.

He also said that the benefits of the forest rights act were not being enjoyed fully in Madhya Pradesh as not only had tribal land been grabbed by the State, but also because Central funds for their welfare had not reached tribal people.

Later in a rally in Mandsaur, Mr. Gandhi questioned the claims of development by the Shivraj Chouhan government. “What development is BJP claiming in MP? A recent U.N. report says that about one lakh infants died here in the past five years.”

Meanwhile in a rally in Khargone, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi questioned Mr. Gandhi’s credentials of being pro-poor. “These people who stay in palaces, what they know how India’s poor live?” he said.

He also called the Congress arrogant and alleged that the Centre had sold excess wheat to breweries. “When the wheat stocks were rotting in the government godowns, the Supreme Court got very angry and asked the Centre to distribute it for free to the poor, but despite the Supreme Court ruling, the Congress government did not do so and later gave it to breweries at the rate of 80 paise.”

Mr. Modi congratulated Mr. Chouhan for allegedly taking the BIMARU (or backward) tag off MP. “The people of MP are impressed with Chouhan ji’s work and have chosen development politics over votebank politics,” said Mr. Modi, who also addressed rallies in Barwani and Jhabua.