The use of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's official PMO Twitter handle to spotlight his "Laal Topi" jibe at the Samajwadi Party is snowballing into a new controversy with parties like the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Trinamool Congress red-flagging it in the middle of an acrimonious parliament session and the campaign for state elections ahead.
PM Modi launched a fierce attack on Akhilesh Yadav's party at a government event in Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur on Tuesday, referring to the "Laal Topi" or trademark red cap worn by its leaders, and accused the party of going soft on terrorists.
"The whole of UP knows that 'laal topi waale' (the red caps) are only interested in red beacons (power), not people's misery. They only need power to run scams, for encroachment, to give a free run to mafias. The red caps want to form government to get terrorists released from jail... The red caps are red alerts for Uttar Pradesh... a danger alarm," he said.
The words, spoken at an official event to launch a factory instead of an election meeting, were reproduced on the PM's official Twitter handle @PMOIndia.
This is not the first time that the Prime Minister's speech has been posted on his official handle, but opposition leaders say this one stands out as more strident and unseemly than others. The lines between politics and office have been blurred with the PM using his recent government events in UP to launch direct attacks at his party's rivals.
Akhilesh Yadav delivered his retort while pointedly wearing his "Laal Topi".
"The PM is ruining his language. The people of Uttar Pradesh will teach them a lesson just like the people of Bengal did. The PM is clearly panicking," said the former Chief Minister.
Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra tweeted: "PM's office paid for by tax payer's money and staffed by IAS officers. How on earth can @PMOIndia handle be used for political lal topi tweets? Have everyone's brains been fried in saffron sauce?"
PM's office paid for by tax payer's money & staffed by IAS officers.— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) December 8, 2021
How on earth can @PMOIndia handle be used for political lal topi tweets?
Have everyone's brains been fried in saffron sauce?
"The use of this kind of language from the Prime Minister's official handle I wrong. PM Modi himself wears a kaali topi (black cap), and so does his party and his cabinet," said AAP's Sanjay Singh.
"These black cap wearing people use their black thinking and black laws. I wouldn't be surprised if they renamed Lal Qila (Red Fort) as Kaala Qila. Will they hoist the flag on August 15 at Kaala Qila? I want to ask them," the AAP MP questioned.
The row highlights the high stake involved for all parties in Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due early next year. The BJP, which swept the previous polls, is facing a strong challenge from Akhilesh Yadav, and both sides have lined up tours and rallies across the state.