The Bharatiya Janta Party’s prime ministerial nominee and finance minister P Chidambaram began a fresh round of verbal duel on a day the biggest phase of the Lok Sabha elections were held.
In an attack on Modi for his repeated “recounting minister” jibe, Chidambaram on Thursday called the Gujarat chief minister an “encounter minister”, an oblique reference to the alleged fake encounters that took place in Gujarat during Modi’s rule. "Mr Modi is a compulsive liar. There was no re-count in Sivaganga. He knows that. Yet he lies...,” the Union minister said.
Chidambaram won the 2009 Lok Sabha election from Sivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu by a margin of around 3,500 votes and the counting process was mired in controversy.
Modi claimed the finance minister won after a recount of votes, though Chidambaram maintains no such thing happened.
Earlier on Thursday, Modi alleged wristwatches with photos of the finance minister were being distributed to voters and demanded a probe by the Election Commission.
"In Tamil Nadu, there is a Congress leader — recounting Minister — he is so afraid that he ran away from elections," Modi said, without taking Chidambaram's name while addressing an election rally in Ramanathapuram, bordering the Union minister's native Sivaganga district.
On a whirlwind two-day electioneering in Tamil Nadu to canvass for NDA candidates, Modi said: "Some people on this dais showed me a watch. It has the recounting minister's photo and his symbol. I was told that these watches are being given to every household. EC should take it very seriously. There should be a probe against the recounting minister and Congress," he said.
After Chidambaram opted out of the April 24 Lok Sabha polls, his son Karti Chidambaram was given the Sivaganga seat.
Seeking to strike a chord with the locals, Modi raked up the problems of the firecracker industry in nearby Sivakasi, employing lakhs of workers, and slammed the license fee hike and blamed it on the ‘faulty UPA policies’.
He promised to take all steps for the welfare of the firecracker industry.
This is not the first time the two have locked horns this election season. Launching a stinging attack on Chidambaram in February for ridiculing his knowledge of economics, Modi had said the country was run with hard work and not Harvard, a reference to the Congress leader's education overseas.
Modi has also used the ‘recount weapon’ in the past, to which the finance minister retorted the Gujarat chief minister staged a "fake encounter" with facts on the issue and that there was never a recount in Sivaganga.