Kolkata: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee fought a vicious war of words during the course of three major public meetings in the state on Wednesday, heating up the electoral battle just eight days before first phase of polling for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
While Modi termed Banerjee "a speed breaker in way of Bengal's development" and claimed her rule in Bengal will come to an end soon, the Trinamool Congress supremo dubbed him an "expiry babu" and a "fascist leader."
Modi, who flew across the length of Bengal on Wednesday to address two mammoth rallies -- one in north Bengal's Siliguri and the other in Kolkata's iconic Brigade Parade Ground, claimed the massive turn out and enthusiasm in both the rallies show that Banerjee's boat had sunk.
"Had I not seen the sea of humanity here, I couldn't have even fathomed that Didi's boat has sunk. Your warnings have reached Didi's ears. Your love and enthusiasm (for BJP) will give her sleepless nights," Modi said at a jam-packed rally in Siliguri's Phansidewa.
"I regret the speed with which we worked in other states, we could not achieve in Bengal. In West Bengal, there is a speed-breaker in the way of your development. People here know this speed-breaker as Didi (as Banerjee is affectionately called)," he said.
Modi accused Banerjee of hindering a number of central welfare schemes in the state, like Ayushman Bharat, PM-KISAN, and Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016 and alleged that Banerjee has no concern for the poor as she was proficient in playing the politics of the poor.
He also flayed Banerjee for questioning the success of India's airstrike in a terrorist camp at Pakistan's Balakot, claiming that she has insulted the Indian Army by doubting their actions and asking for proof.
"Tell me who was asking the proof of airstrike? Who doubted it? Who was demoralising the army? Who wanted to see the dead bodies of the terrorists? Who committed the crime of asking for evidence from our soldiers?" he asked the crowd in his Kolkata rally who shouted Banerjee's name.
He claimed Banerjee's reactions showed the Balakot airstrike made her more saddened than those sitting in Pakistan.
Hitting back at Modi, Banerjee, who held a rally in Cooch Benhar district's Dinhata, attacked the Prime Minister as "expiry babu" and claimed that she and the opposition leaders are "true nationalists" while Modi is a "fascist leader".
"I will not call him Prime Minister, he is expiry babu as his government has passed the expiry date," she said.
"Who had murdered Gandhiji? Today, they are talking of loving the country as if only they are the country's friends and the rest of us are enemies. We are nationalists and sorry to say PM, you are fascist," she said.
Taking a swipe on Modi for his barbs on her, Banerjee dared him to come for a public debate.
"If he thinks what he has said is true, he should come for a debate with me. Once he puts questions, I will give all the reply and prove it... Do not tell lies every day. With his 56-inch chest, he is telling 560 inches of lies," she alleged.
She also attacked the saffron leaders for referring the army as "Modi Sena".
"Today they are calling Indian army as 'Modi Sena', who wants to be 'Modi-Sena'? A jawan's respect is very high. Modi knows violence, a jawan sacrifices his life, gives blood for the country. I have heard that EC has mentioned that one cannot speak about the army. Then how can the Prime Minister speak about Modi sena. We will raise a question if no objection is raised," she said.