Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday said that Channi referring to people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as “bhaiyya” reflected a “divisive mentality”, reported NDTV.

At an election rally in Punjab’s Rupnagar city on Tuesday, Channi had urged voters to not let “bhaiyyas” from the two states assume power in Punjab. “Bhaiyya” is a term often used to ridicule people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who have migrated to other states.

“Where was Guru Govind Singh born?” Modi asked people attending a rally in Punjab’s Fazilka city on Thursday. “In Patna Sahib, in Bihar. Will you throw Guru Govind Singh out of Punjab? People of such divisive mentality should not be allowed to rule Punjab even for one moment.”

Modi also referred to Ravidas, a 15th century saint of the Bhakti sect, who has a large following in Punjab.

“Only yesterday we observed Sant Ravidas Jayanti,” Modi said. “Where was he born? In Uttar Pradesh, in Varanasi. Will you remove Sant Ravidas from Punjab?”

Channi’s comments were apparently aimed at the Aam Aadmi Party, which is also being seen as a strong contender in the Assembly polls scheduled to be held on February 20. Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra clapped after Channi made the comments on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Modi said: “The entire country has seen what the Congress chief minister said. The family from Delhi is his maalik [boss], that maalik was standing next to him, clapping.”

Meanwhile, on Thursday Channi claimed that his statement had been misconstrued, reported ANI. He said that his comment referred to people who “come from outside and create disruptions”.

The chief minister said Punjab belongs just as much to the citizens of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and others who come and work there as it does to the Punjabis.

“All migrant workers who came to Punjab have toiled and taken it on the path of development,” said Channi. “We have only love for them,” he said.

‘Nonsense’: Bihar CM on Channi’s comments

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Thursday described Channi’s comments as “nonsense” and said he was appalled that people could say such things, reported PTI.

“Does he [Channi] not know how many people from Bihar live there [in Punjab] and how much they have served that land,” Kumar said.

Aam Aadmi Party National Convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called the comment “very shameful”, reported The Times of India.

“This whole country is one,” Kejriwal said. “He [Channi] keeps calling me ‘kaala, kaala’ [person with a dark skin tone] as well. Rahul Gandhi too says I’m a terrorist. People of Punjab will decide on March 20. Whatever we may be, people like us the way we are.”

Bhagwant Mann, the Aam Aadmi Party’s chief minister candidate, said Priyanka Gandhi too hails from Uttar Pradesh.

“That way, even she would be a ‘bhaiyya’,” Mann said. “They don’t know what they are saying.”

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati also described Channi’s comments as “shameful”.

“People must teach a lesson to the Congress in the Assembly elections being held in Punjab and UP,” she wrote in a tweet. “People of Bihar must also take cognisance of this.”