Narendra Modi's elevation as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate and Rahul Gandhi's comment on Muzaffarnagar seems to suit the Samajwadi Party fine. And on Tuesday, at the party's first election rally in Azamgarh in eastern Uttar Pradesh, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav pulled out all the stops to draw mileage from its traditional votebank of Muslims.
Gandhi's comment on Pakistan's ISI tapping the youths hit by Muzaffarnagar riots had touched a nerve among Muslims in the state. And Azamgarh had for long been trying to shake off the terror tag.
In front of the one-lakh strong crowd, as senior party leader Azam Khan demanded an apology from the Congress vice-president Gandhi, Yadav sounded indignant.
"How can anyone point a finger at the members of the Muslim community?" he said. "The Muslims and the farmers have played a major role in country's development. A Muslim, Abdul Kalam, gave India its first missile and the man who wreaked havoc on Pakistan in the Indo-Pak war, Abdul Hamid, was a Muslim."
As for Modi, he is "available only in Gujarat and on TV channels, he is not a leader of the masses," Yadav said dismissively.
The vacuum at the Centre, he said, can be filled only by the Third Front - which is to be formed after the polls.
"The SP is the most important constituent of the Third Front, but the front will come up only after the elections," he said. "On Wednesday, an important meeting of six constituents of the front is to be held in New Delhi."
The SP chief also launched a direct attack on the Congress.
"Be it scams or inflation, the Congress has failed on all fronts. Even the borders are not safe. The Chinese army intruded 19 km inside the Indian territory and the Union government remained indifferent," he said.
Making an appeal to the people to ensure the SP's victory in the coming Lok Sabha polls, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav said, "Communal forces are making an all-out effort to divide the Hindus and the Muslims. It is up to us to foil the nefarious designs of such political parties."