On a campaign trail in western Maharashtra, Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra Modi derided each other, with the Maharashtra strongman describing the saffron campaigner as the 'frontline leader of communal forces' in the country.
Modi hit back, saying Pawar has been hoodwinked by the Congress on the issue of prime ministership.
The Gujarat chief minister, who launched the BJP-Shiv Sena's poll drive in Pune, said Pawar failed to understand the Congress' strategy to keep him out of the race for the top post.
Referring to the recent statement by Pawar that a Maharashtrian should get an opportunity to become PM, Modi said by making Pratibha Patil the President, the Congress had employed a 'shrewd ploy' to sideline the NCP president.
The seasoned politician in Pawar, however, failed to gauge the Congress game, Modi added. In a sarcastic vein, he said, "If Pawar had any substance; he should at least see to it that a Maharashtrian becomes the captain of the Indian cricket team."
Continuing his marathon election meetings in neighbouring Ahmednagar district, Pawar branded Modi as the 'frontline leader' of communal forces in the country, who was responsible for destroying the lives of hundreds of people in Gujarat, maligning the image of that state.
"This communal leader has come to Maharashtra (for campaigning) but people of this state would never accept his ideology," Pawar said.
"We love the Gujarat of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel," he said, appealing to voters to remove the 'poisonous weed' of communal thoughts from the state.