Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to ridicule Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday over a comment he never made about coconuts growing in the north-eastern state of Manipur.
Speaking at an election rally, Modi referred to Gandhi’s reported comment that he was waiting for the day when packaged “coconut juice” from Manipur would sell in London. Most major Indian news outlets, including Hindustan Times, had erroneously reported Gandhi’s so-called coconut comment.
“There is a Congress leader, and I want to pray for his long life... he recently went to Manipur to address an election rally. There he told farmers that he would extract juice from coconuts and send it to London. In fact, a coconut possesses water (and not juice) and it is grown in Kerala,” said Modi.
“Such a talented and far-sighted leader he is.”
The jibe, however, was misplaced as Gandhi, during a campaign meeting in Manipur on Tuesday, had spoken about the state taking a lead in marketing its oranges, lemons and pineapples – fruits that do grow there.
“Here (in Manipur) you grow nimbu (lemon), narangi (oranges), pineapple… I hope that a day comes when someone in London drinks pineapple juice, and sees ‘Made in Manipur’ on the box,” he said at an election rally in Hafta Kangjeibung in Imphal East district.
Five Indian states, including Uttar Pradesh and Manipur, are voting to elect new assemblies. The election campaign has largely been vitriolic, with Modi and Gandhi targeting each other in public meetings.
The campaign has also often degenerated into personal attacks and some leaders have been prone to gaffes.
On Wednesday, Modi also attacked Gandhi for talking about opening a “potato factory” in Uttar Pradesh in October.
Back then, Gandhi had told the state’s farmers: “You all are demanding a potato factory in your area, but you should understand I am an opposition leader.
“I can put pressure on the government, but cannot take the decision. I cannot open a potato factory for farmers”.