Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar took no names in his taunt at an election rally about "having eight to nine children in the quest for a son" but his intended target, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, has responded sharply.
Tejashwi Yadav, the eighth of former chief ministers Lalu Yadav and Rabri Devi's nine children, tweeted that even Nitish Kumar's insults were "blessings" for him. Later, he told reporters that the Chief Minister had insulted "women and my mother's sentiments".
On Monday, winding down the campaign for the first round of voting on Wednesday, Nitish Kumar attacked Tejashwi Yadav and his father Lalu Yadav. "Does anyone care? They have eight-nine children. They have no faith in daughters. After so many daughters, they had a son. You all can see - this is the kind of Bihar they want to make," the Chief Minister said.
Tejashwi Yadav, who is leading the opposition campaign and has repeatedly needled Nitish Kumar, 69, calling him "mentally and physically tired", said the words about many children also applies to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he, too, had many siblings.
"By commenting on my family, Nitish Kumar is targeting PM Modi as he also has six siblings. Using such language, Nitish Kumar has insulted women and my mother's sentiments. They don't speak on the main issues, like inflation, corruption, unemployment etc," the RJD Leader said.
Tejashwi Yadav, 31, had also tweeted earlier: "Even bad words used by Nitishji against me are like blessings to me. Nitish Kumar is mentally and physically tired and that is why he can speak whatever he likes. I treat his words like a blessing. This time Bihar has decided to vote on the issues of employment and development."
Nitish Kumar has been unusually caustic and, according to his critics, downright personal in his campaign against Tejashwi Yadav, whose rallies have been drawing huge crowds. The Chief Minister as well as the NDA are seen to be unnerved by the massive response to Tejashwi's promise of 10 lakh government jobs.
The strain is showing, with the normally calm Chief Minister often resorting to scathing jibes.
"You tell us, kahaan bhage phir rahey they (where were you running around)? Where did you stay when you were in Delhi," he said at a rally, apparently referring to Tejashwi Yadav's long absence from Bihar after his party crashed in last year's national election.
Yesterday, he said of Tejashwi Yadav: "Those who don't have any knowledge or experience are speaking against me. We are not interested in the campaign, we are concerned about nepotism. We consider all of Bihar as one family but for some, only blood relatives are their family."
Bihar starts voting tomorrow in three-phase polls that will end on November 7. The results will be declared on November 10.