Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday tore into Congress president Rahul Gandhi for saying he made 'a woman' defend him in Parliament over the Rafale deal, a reference to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, terming the remark as an insult to all women in the country.
Mounting a fresh offensive against the Congress as well as the SP and the BSP in rallies in Solapur in Maharashtra and Agra in Uttar Pradesh, Modi also called himself a chowkidar(watchman) who can pick a wrongdoer even in darkness in his fight against corruption.
Modi said his "safai" (clean-up) mission to uproot corruption has made the opposition parties scared of the chowkidar that even arch rivals SP and the BSP are coming together to throw him out of power. Modi referred to himself by the term 'chowkidar' Rahul Gandhi often uses while targeting the prime minister.
The watchman with a 56-inch chest ran away and told a woman, Sitharaman ji, defend me. I won't be able to defend myself, defend me, Gandhi said at a farmers' rally in Jaipur.
In his public meeting a few hours later in Agra, Modi accused Congress leaders of insulting all women in the country.
"They are bent upon insulting a woman defence minister," he said, without naming Gandhi.
"This is not an insult to a woman, but an insult to entire India's women power, for which these irresponsible leaders will have to pay the price."
The prime minister said it was a matter of pride that a woman had become defence minister for the first time in the country.
Later in the evening, Gandhi took a jibe at the PM saying in "our culture respect for women begins at home".
While Gandhi did not elaborate, some Congress leaders in the past have alleged that Modi deprived his wife of her rights.
Modi also latched on to media reports that claimed alleged middleman Christian Michel, arrested in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case, was lobbying for French manufacturer Rafale's rivals in the multi-role aircraft deal when the earlier government was in power.
"Congress should answer which leader of their party, now shouting about this (Rafale deal), has a connection with Michel. They should give an account of each and every penny spent," he said. Congress did not immediately react to Modi's remark.
He also said 'Michel mama' the 'confidant' is in the custody of country and the Congress is worried he might reveal secrets.
"Do you support the chowkidar," Modi asked the crowd at the Solapur rally. "Was the deal stopped then because of Michel mama's 'saudebaazi' (deals)," he said, apparently referring to the 126 jet plan that didn't materialise.
Calling himself a chowkidar, Modi said he has undertaken a "safai" (clean-up) mission to uproot corruption and that he cannot be bought or scared and will continue with his work relentlessly.
"Modi is made up of a different mettle. He cannot be bought nor can anyone scare him. I will take an account of every single penny. This chowkidar doesn't sleep and can pick a wrongdoer even in darkness. They may continue abusing me but I will not stop my mission to uproot corruption," he said.
In Agra, Modi hit out at the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party(SP) and the Mayawati-headed Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP), saying political rivals, who did not even like to look at each other, were now coming together just to oppose the BJP.
"Rivals are coming together just to oppose us. Political rivals, who didnt even like to look at each other, are now coming together just to oppose us," he told a public meeting after launching various projects worth Rs 3,907 crore.
"They fear the chowkidar, which is why they want to throw me out of power," Modi said, citing alleged scams in sand and gravel mining in Uttar Pradesh during the separate regimes of these two parties in the state earlier.
"The investigating agencies are seeking an answer from them of their misdeeds and so they are conspiring against the chowkidar...," Modi said, alleging they have now started a cooperation campaign in corruption,
"...to hide their scams and corruption (they) are shaking hands...those who were not ready to see eye to eye are shaking hands for petty political gains and are (also) ready to forget the shameful guest house case and other incidents," Modi said referring to the infamous state guest house incident in 1995. SP workers manhandled Mayawati in the state guest house in Lucknow on June 2, 1995 in a bid to obtain BSP's support for the party's coalition government.
"This is happening only because the chowkidar is awake and is standing in front of them with full honesty...To remove the chowkidar they are collecting all the 'tinkas' and 'tukdas'(straw and broken pieces)," he said.
Modi defended the introduction of the 10 per cent quota for the general category poor in jobs and education, adding the bill's passage in the Lok Sabha is a strong answer to those "spreading lies".
On the Lok Sabha's approval of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Modi assured people of Assam and the North-East their rights will not be curtailed in any way.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)