Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Monday attacked the Samajwadi Party ahead of next month's Assembly polls, accusing it of giving election tickets from certain areas to "criminals".
The BJP, he declared, would "bring these criminals to justice".
"By announcing criminals responsible for exodus of traders from Kairana, criminals of Muzaffarnagar riots, and professional history-sheeters as its candidates, the Samajwadi Party has once again revealed its true character," he was quoted by news agency ANI at an event in UP's Ghaziabad.
"When BJP comes (back) to power in UP, we will bring these criminals to justice," he declared.
The reference to Kairana district did not go unnoticed.
Before the 2017 UP election the district, in the western part of the state, was in the news over the alleged forced migration of Hindu families by local Muslim 'gangs'. The BJP used this in its campaign.
Adityanath was in Kairana in November last year for a visit seen as an attempt to revive the issue.
The Chief Minister's barb also came a day after a Samajwadi Party candidate - Nahid Hassan, the sitting Kairana MLA - was arrested in connection with a 2021 case filed under the Gangsters Act.
Mr Hassan, whose candidacy was dropped and Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav called his arrest a "desperate attempt" and accused the ruling party of framing his leaders.
In Assembly elections Kairana has voted for the Samajwadi Party since 2014, although it turned out for the BJP's Hukum Singh in the 2014 Lok Sabha poll.
Meanwhile, Adityanath wasn't the only BJP leader to take a swipe at Akhilesh Yadav and the Samajwadi Party over the Kairana and 'riots' issue.
Yesterday, Union Minister Anurag Thakur, while inducting former Kanpur top cop Asim Arun into the party, declared "those who 'do' riots join Samajwadi Party, those who catch rioters join BJP".
This was after a slew of high-profile defections - Swami Prasad Maurya, Dara Singh Chauhan, and Dharam Singh Saini, all part of the Yogi Adityanath government since 2017, have joined Mr Yadav.
The back-and-forth between the current Chief Minister and his predecessor has exploded over the past few days, particularly after the BJP said Adityanath will contest from his stronghold of Gorakhpur.
Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party has emerged as the biggest challenge to the BJP's re-election bid, with the ex-Chief Minister's "rainbow" alliance of regional parties threatening to oust the ruling party.
UP will vote in a seven-phase poll beginning February 10, with results due March 10.
With input from ANI