Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday equated the red caps worn by Samajwadi Party workers with 'red beacons' that suggest a hunger for power and sounded a 'red alert', claiming that the SP wants to form the next state government to free terrorists.
SP leader Akhilesh Yadav reacted quickly to the allegation, tweeting that the red caps are a 'red alert' for the Bharatiya Janata Party itself as they will oust that party from power.
Modi's attack on the opposition party came at Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's home turf Gorakhpur, where he inaugurated a mega fertiliser plant and an All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), together worth nearly Rs 10,000 crore.
The PM also recalled fertiliser shortages in the past and slammed the previous state governments over 'delays' in payment to farmers by sugar mills.
"Today, the entire UP knows very well that those wearing the red caps are concerned about the red beacon ('laal batti') and not bothered about your pain and sorrows," he said, apparently referring to the beacon atop cars carrying VIPs.
"The red-cap people want power to commit scams, fill their coffers, indulge in illegal grabbing (of resources) and give complete freedom to the mafia," he said.
"The red-cap people want to form the government to show favour to terrorists and to free them from jail. Hence, you should remember that those wearing red caps are a red alert for UP, in other words alarm bells."
He claimed that the previous governments had brought a bad name to UP by patronising criminals.
"But today the mafia is in jail, and the investors are investing in the state with an open heart," he said at the rally, flagging benefits of a 'double-engine government' with the same party in power at the Centre and in the state.
Reacting to Modi's jibe, SP president Akhilesh Yadav said the red caps are a red alert for the BJP.
In a tweet, he also listed price rise, unemployment and the Lakhimpur Kheri violence involving farmers among the other 'red alerts' for the ruling party.
The PM's rally in eastern Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday took place on a day when the SP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal addressed their first joint public meeting in western UP's Meerut.
The two parties have formed an alliance to take on the BJP in the assembly polls early next year.
Modi praised the Adityanath government for doing 'unprecedented' work for sugarcane growers.
He said sugarcane farmers have been paid more as their dues in the past four and a half years than the amount given during the terms of governments in 10 years before this.
He said the minimum support price for sugarcane has increased to Rs 350 per quintal in the state in recent years.
The state's sugarcane farmers had a tough time in getting their dues from sugar mills earlier and the process took months, he claimed.
"There were different types of games played and scams committed related to sugar mills. People of Purvanchal and UP know this very well," he said.
Modi said the country which was till 2014 known for importing urea, and the shortage of fertilisers used to make headlines, is witnessing an improved situation now.
Fertiliser used be diverted to non-agriculture use and farmers faced 'lathis and bullets' for it, he claimed.
The prime minister said his government also took steps to hike urea production by reviving closed fertiliser plants.
"We stopped the wrong use of urea, and 100 per cent neem coating of urea was done. We made soil health cards for crores of farmers so that they could know which type of fertiliser is required for their farm," he said.
Ahead of the UP polls, the BJP government is showcasing development projects in Purvanchal, which accounts for around 160 of the 403 assembly seats.
The three big-ticket projects inaugurated on Tuesday are worth Rs 9,600 crore.
Apart from the fertiliser plant and the AIIMS, the PM inaugurated a Regional Medical Research Centre of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in Gorakhpur.
The newly built fertiliser plant will be operated by the Hindustan Urvarak Rasayan Limited (HURL).
The Gorakhpur AIIMS, built at a cost of Rs 1,011 crore, will benefit not only the people from eastern Uttar Pradesh but also a huge population of Bihar, Jharkhand and Nepal, officials said.
The prime minister said the previous state governments 'made every excuse' to delay the transfer of land for the AIIMS project.
"Friends, today's programme is a tight slap on those who are highly interested in raising the question of timing," he said, in an apparent reference to the project being linked to the upcoming elections.
"When such projects are completed, there is years of hard work behind it. These people will never understand that even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the double engine government was engaged in development, and it did not allow work to halt," he added.