Narendra Modi on Sunday lashed out at former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram after he tweeted a list of Congress presidents not from the Nehru-Gandhi family in response to the prime minister’s criticisms, the Hindustan Times reported. Modi had challenged the Opposition party on Friday to name its presidents from outside the family.

“One of the family’s courtiers has come out with a list,” Modi said at a rally in Mahasamund district in poll-bound Chhattisgarh. “The country knows that Sitaram Kesri, a Dalit, was not allowed to complete his five-year-term as Congress president. He was thrown out of office and onto the footpath to make way for madam Sonia Gandhi as the new party chief.”

The prime minister claimed that the government of Raman Singh, which has been in power in the state since 2003, was able to do “real work” only after the 2014 General Elections. “The first 10 years of Raman Singh government were spent fighting the negative forces,” he asserted. “The remote-controlled [United Progressive Alliance] government in Delhi did not allow Raman Singh to work for his state. It was only after 2014 that he could work to bring in development in the state.”

The prime minister asked people at the rally if they want to give power to politicians who “ruined the lives of earlier generations” in the state. The BJP is the answer to Chhattisgarh’s problems, he emphasised.

Modi claimed Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s promise of waiving farm loans is a lie. The Karnataka government, which is run by a coalition of the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular), has not waived farmers’ loans even after being in power for six months, he added.

The prime minister rejected Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that his government has written off the loans of 15 industrialists worth Rs 3.5 lakh crore. The UPA government had waived the loans of industrialists between 2006 and 2014, Modi added.

Amit Shah backs Modi

BJP National President Amit Shah defended Modi and claimed, in a series of tweets, that Kesri was not the only Congress president to have been mistreated by the party.

“Two recent non-family members who served as Congress presidents were treated in the most shabby manner possible,” he tweeted. “PV Narasimha Rao’s body was never allowed inside the Congress office. Sitaram Kesri, a towering leader, was roughed up by goons loyal to we know who.”

“Going further back in time, the likes of Jagjivan Ram, S Nijalingappa, K Kamaraj were humiliated by one family,” the BJP president added. “Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, though senior was not allowed to be president by one family. UN Dhebar was asked to step aside as Congress president for Indira Gandhi. Acharya Kripalani, a stalwart who worked closely with [Mahatma] Gandhi and Sardar Patel was humiliated through the 1950s and 1960s. His crime? He moved the first motion of no-confidence against the [Jawaharlal] Nehru government.”

The first phase of polling for the elections in the state was held on November 12. On Tuesday, 72 constituencies will vote. The results for all 90 constituencies will be declared on December 11.