Will a man who changes kurtas five times a day care about the poor, asks Samajwadi Party chief

With the electoral battle in the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh on May 12 likely to decide the fate of the main contenders, Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh on Tuesday took the fight to Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

Even as he attacked the “Gujarat development model”, the SP chief took a swipe at Mr. Modi’s “chaaiwaalaa” status by juxtaposing it with the “paanwaalaa” status of the SP candidate from Varanasi, Kailash Chaurasia.

Mr. Singh said that while the “paan [betel leaf]” was beneficial and had some medicinal properties, intake of “chaai [tea]” could be harmful for the stomach. Mr. Modi, who is contesting from Varanasi, will file his nomination papers on April 24.

Mr. Singh, who filed his nomination papers from the Azamgarh parliamentary constituency at the Collectorate here on Tuesday, was addressing a public meeting at the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) ground. His public meeting was preceded by a 4-km-long road show through Civil Lines and the Takia Crossing that concluded at the ITI ground.

Looking to neutralise the influence of the “Modi effect” on the outcome of the elections in Purvanchal, the SP chief described Gujarat’s development claims as a “bundle of lies” and claimed that Mr. Modi’s fetish for “kurtas” was indicative of his indifference to the poor: “Modi has 500 kurtas and he changes them five times a day; will he care about the poor?”.

Mr. Singh said 7,000 farmers had committed suicide in Gujarat and about 44,000 children were missing in the State as on date. “Not more than eight hours of electricity is supplied in Gujarat and the number of unemployed persons in that State is 8.5 lakh,” he said, adding that the price of fertilizer was the highest in the State. Mr. Singh said 45 per cent of women in Gujarat suffered serious ailments and there was acute shortage of drinking water. Stating that leading industrialists, such as Ambani and Adani, were from Gujarat, Mr. Singh alleged that industrial houses were financing the BJP’s publicity campaign. He went on to compare the implementation of the metro rail project in the two States: “While the Metro project has failed to take off in Gujarat in the last 11 years, it is being implemented in Uttar Pradesh.”

In an attempt to strike an emotional chord with the Muslims of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Yadav mentioned the description of the community’s socio-economic status in the Sachar Committee report. Mr. Singh said the SP government’s decision to give Rs. 20,000 to poor Muslim girls who had completed high school was inspired by the Sachar report on their socio-economic condition. He said 80 per cent of the nation’s handicraft work and development activity was done by “kisan and Musalmaan [farmers and Muslims]”.