Pune, Mar 16: On the campaign trail in western Maharashtra, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar and BJP leader Narendra Modi derided each other, with the Maharashtra strongman describing the saffron campaigner as the "frontline leader" of communal forces in the country.
Modi hit back, saying Pawar has been hoodwinked by Congress on the issue of prime ministership. The Gujarat chief minister, who launched the BJP-Shiv Sena's poll drive here on Sunday night, said Pawar who has spent many years in Congress failed to understand the stratagem of that party to keep him out of the race for the top post.
Referring to recent statement by Pawar that a Maharashtrian should get an opportunity to become PM, Modi said by making Pratibha Patil the President, Congress employed a "shrewd ploy" to sideline the NCP president shutting doors on his prime ministerial ambitions.
The seasoned politician in Pawar, however, failed to gauge the Congress game, Modi added.
In a sarcastic vein, he said, "if Pawar had any substance, he should at least see to it that a Maharashtrian becomes captain of the Indian cricket team."
Continuing his marathon election meetings in neighbouring Ahmednagar district, Pawar branded Modi as a "frontline leader" of communal forces in the country, who was responsible for destroying lives of hundreds of people in Gujarat, maligning the image of that state.
"This communal leader has come to Maharashtra (for campaigning) but people of this state would never accept his ideology that divided the society, Pawar said.
"We love Gujarat of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel", he said, appealing to voters to remove the poisonous "weed" of communal thoughts from the state.
The NCP chief also welcomed local MLA Yashwantrao Gadakh, on the occasion, who crossed over to the party from Congress.