Political mudslinging continued in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday with the BJP’s state-in-command Amit Shah saying “political battles were not decided in boxing rings but in the people’s court”, while taking a dig at the Samajwadi Party government.

Mr. Shah was responding to the SP’s counter to BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s “56-inch chest” comment in Gorakhpur. The Gujarat Chief Minister on Thursday, while addressing a rally, had said one required a “56-inch chest” to transform U.P. into Gujarat.

Responding to Mr. Modi’s comments, U.P. Cabinet minister and senior SP leader Azam Khan on Saturday said: “Modi might have a 56-inch chest but our Netaji (Mulayam Singh) is also a pahalwan (wrestler)… An experienced wrestler like Netaji would not spare communal Modi [in the ring].” Mr. Khan also urged Mr. Modi to speak cautiously about Mr. Singh.

Talking to reporters in Ballia on Sunday, the last day of his three-day tour of eastern U.P., Mr. Shah, while attacking the SP, BSP and the Congress, said “there was a strong wave against the three parties in the State.”

The Congress should announce its prime ministerial candidate and give the people a chance to elect him or her, he added.

Mr. Shah, however, refused to comment on Union Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma’s allegations of covert relations between the SP and the BJP, and Union Minister R.P.N Singh’s remark that nobody had seen Mr. Modi selling tea. Mr. Shah said Congress leaders “have lost their mental balance” by sensing the general mood of a change in power and were making “baseless” statements.

He also said Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and SP supremo Mulayam Singh were still attacking Mr. Modi on the 2002 Gujarat riots out of sheer desperation. He added that the Ram Mandir issue was not an election issue for the party.

Mr. Shah, a close aide of the Gujarat Chief Minister, also alleged that the SP government was not working within the ambit of the Constitution and was not concerned about the security of the State and the nation. “There is confusion in the State over the post of the Chief Minister. There are several Chief Ministers in the State,” he claimed.

Mr. Singh, while addressing party workers on Republic Day after hoisting the national flag at the party headquarters her, also attacked the BJP, criticising it for the power crisis in the State. While promising that his party would provide 24-hour electricity for the State after a year, Mr. Singh said the BJP and the BSP were equally responsible for the crisis. “What has the BJP done in this regard, even after ruling three times in the State? Our government will give 24-hour electricity in the State year after year,” the SP leader said.

While mocking Mr. Singh, Mr. Modi had on Thursday said that developing Gujarat into U.P. meant providing electricity 24-hours for 365 days in every street of the State.