Describing Maoists as 'monsters with evil mindset', Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused the Congress of backing 'urban Naxals' who, he said, were 'remote-controlling' the Maoist insurgency in this region and ruining the lives of poor tribals.
The Congress hit back at Modi and accused him of indulging in his 'trademark petty politics' and seeking to hide his 'abject failure and weak-kneed' approach to fighting Naxalism.
The party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also reminded Modi that the Congress lost over 25 of its leaders to Naxal attack in 2013.
Addressing his first election rally in insurgency-hit Bastar district in poll-bound Chhattisgarh, Modi also said the Congress was making 'fun' of Adivasis.
Bastar goes to vote on Monday as part of the first phase of the two-phase assembly polls. Urban Naxals is a term used to describe city-based supporters working in alleged front organisations of proscribed Maoist outfits.
Modi's comments came a day after four civilians and a Central Industrial Security Force jawan were killed when suspected Naxals blew up a bus with an improvised explosive device in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district in a fresh wave of Maoist attacks.
On October 30, three police personnel and a cameraman of national broadcaster Doordarshan were killed in Dantewada district.
Modi also said that voting for anyone apart from the Bharatiya Janata Party would be a 'blot on the dreams of Bastar'.
Going all out to denounce the Maoists, Modi said they were destroying schools and not allowing doctors to treat people.
"Those who are giving guns in the hands of kids in place of the pen are actually monsters with evil mindset. They are destroying schools and not letting doctors perform their duty," the prime minister said.
He also went on to allege that 'urban Naxals' were remote-controlling the Maoist insurgency in the region.
"The urban Maoists, who live in air-conditioned homes in the cities and whose children study abroad, remote control Adivasi children in Naxal-dominated areas," Modi said. "I want to ask the Congress why it supports urban Maoists when the government takes action against them," he added.
He asked people to vote for the BJP and ensure that it wins all seats in Bastar, adding that 'if anyone else wins, it will be a blot on Bastar's dreams'.
"I don't know why Congress makes fun of Adivasis. Once I had gone for a rally in North-East India and wore a traditional Adivasi headgear but Congress leaders made fun of it. This was an insult to Adivasi culture," he said.
He said the BJP government in the state, led by chief minister Raman Singh, had ushered in a new era of development in Bastar while earlier governments did nothing for the region despite having funds.
He said that Naxalism needed to be stamped out to pave way for development, adding that the BJP wanted to strengthen Bastar and root out unemployment, poverty and hunger.
"This is the reason I have come here. This is our responsibility because you have reposed that faith in us," he told the gathering.
The prime minister said he wanted to fulfil late Atal Bihari Vajpayee's dream of a prosperous Chhattisgarh and 'will not rest' till he achieved it.
Speaking about his multiple visits to the region, Modi said, "I have never come empty-handed but have given you some scheme or development programme. We are working hard to eradicate unemployment, poverty and hunger from the region.
"Previously, there were resources but nothing happened."
Lashing out at the Congress, Modi said it treated Dalits, deprived sections and Adivasis as vote banks and not as human beings.
"Do you want a government which works or one which stops development works," he said, adding that his government never discriminated among people.
"Previous governments did that. Our government works for the development of all," he said.
He also paid tributes to Doordarshan cameraman Achyutanand Sahu who was killed along with two security personnel.
"An innocent cameraman of Doordarshan, Achyutanand Sahu, who was doing his duty was killed by Maoists. He was sharing the dreams of the people of Bastar with other people across the country. What was his fault?" Modi asked.
Targeting Modi over his allegation against the Congress, Surjewala tweeted, 'Do u remember- @INCIndia lost over 25 of its leaders to Naxal Terror under BJP's watch!'
As many as 28 people including Congress leaders were killed in Chhattisgarh when a group of Maoists attacked them at Darbha Valley in Sukma district on May 25 in 2013.
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat also hit out at the prime minister for his remarks on 'urban Maoists', alleging he cannot tolerate dissent and that anybody who questions his policies is either branded 'anti-national or a urban Maoist'.
The state goes to polls in two phases on November 12 and 20. The first phase of voting will cover Antagarh, Bhanupratappur, Kanker, Kondagaon, Narayanpur, Bastar, Jagdalpur, Keshkal, Chitrakot, Dantewada, Bijapur, Konta, Khairagarh, Dongargarh, Rajnandgaon, Dongargaon, Khujji and Mohla-Manpur seats.
Stakes are very high for the BJP on these 18 seats as it had lost 12 of them in the last polls in 2013.
In the 2013 assembly polls, of the total 90 seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party won 49 seats, Congress 39, Bahujan Samaj Party 1 and Independent 1.