Prime Minister Narendra Modi's acronym for the opposition coalition in Uttar Pradesh - sarab - at his election rally in Meerut had a furious Congress demanding his apology and accusing him of stooping to a new low.
"Sapa (Samajwadi Party) ka 'sa', RLD ka 'Ra' aur Baspa (BSP) ka 'ba', matlab 'sarab'. (Take the 'Sa' of Samajwadi Party, 'Ra' or Rashtriya Lok Dal and 'Ba' of Bahujan Samaj Party)," PM Modi said to a large public gathering as he launched his campaign in Uttar Pradesh for next month's national election.
"For UP's good health and for India's future, should you not stay away from sarab? Sapa, RLD, Baspa, ye 'sarab' aapko barbaad kar degi (this sarab will destroy you)," he said to tittering in the audience.
Barely had he finished speaking that the Congress addressed a press conference lacerating the comments and accusing PM Modi of likening three political parties to sharab or liquor.
"Does this kind of talk befit a Prime Minister? You are calling three political parties sharab? Is this the way a PM talks? Can the people accept this," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in Delhi.
"Take back your words and apologise to 130 crore people, or the nation and Uttar Pradesh will never forgive you."
Describing the PM as "drama king" and "flop film actor", the Congress leader said despite his party's differences with Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati, he addressed her as "ji" and this was "Indian culture".
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, however, tweeted that the PM muddled up "sarab (mirage)" and "sharab (liquor)" because of the teleprompter.
"Tele prompters exposed how those who promote hate don't know difference between 'sarab' and 'sharab'; 'Sarab' also means mirage which the BJP has been showing for the last five years," said Akhilesh Yadav.