The war of words between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee escalated as the leaders attacked each other over chants of "Jai Shri Ram". After PM Modi dared Mamata Banerjee to arrest him for the chant, the Trinamool Congress chief questioned him as to why he has not built "one Ram Temple" but is busy chanting "Jai Shri Ram".
"You BJP babu, you say 'Jai Shri Ram' but have you built even one Ram temple? At the time of elections, Ram Chandra becomes your party agent; you say 'Ram Chandra is my election agent'. You say 'Jai Shri Ram' and force others to say it," Ms Banerjee said at a rally in Bishnupur on Monday.
The construction of the Ram Temple has been a priority issue for the BJP and has found its place in the party manifesto. It has talked about an "expeditious construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya".
Ms Banerjee's attack comes soon after PM Modi, at a rally in Jhargram, dared her to "throw him in jail".
"Didi has thrown people into jail for chanting 'Jai Shri Ram'. I thought of greeting her with the chant so she can throw me behind bars, too. I will then serve the innocent people who are in jail for chanting in praise of Lord Ram," the Prime Minister said.
PM Modi was referring to a recent incident where three people were reportedly arrested for allegedly chanting "Jai Shri Ram" when the Chief Minister's convoy was passing by.
A video showing Mamata Banerjee fuming at some people in the West Midnapore district for chanting "Jai Shri Ram" had been widely shared on social media.
On Monday, while addressing a rally at Jhargram, Ms Banerjee had said, "You cannot force someone to raise slogans - the slogan you want to give to the people. We respect Lord Ram and know how to give him proper respect. I will say Jai Hind, Vande Mataram, Maa-Mati-Manush-er jai, Trinamool Congress-er jai, but never the slogan which the BJP wants people to say."
West Bengal is voting in seven phases and two more phases are scheduled for May 12 and 19. Results will be out on May 23.