The Congress on Thursday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to apologise to the people of the country for comparing Opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh to “sharab” or alcohol.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that Modi had lowered the political discourse in the country with his comments and said it did not behove a prime minister.

Earlier on Thursday, addressing a rally at Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut, Modi had claimed that it did not take the Opposition long to go from “UP ke do ladke” (a reference to the Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance during the Assembly elections in the state in 2017) to “Bua Babua” (Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party tie-up). He advised people to keep away from “SARAB” – an acronym made up from initials of Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Bahujan Samaj Party – which means alcohol in Hindi.

Surjewala said Modi was behaving like a “flop actor who is using acronyms” and making a joke of the democracy. “How can you compare three political parties who are contesting the elections democratically to alcohol?” the Congress spokesperson said at a press conference held after Modi’s rally. “You have made fun of the entire process of democracy by mocking the three parties. You must apologise to the people for mocking them, or else the people of Uttar Pradesh and the country will never forgive you.”

Surjewala also claimed that the prime minister had mocked the poor by criticising Congress’ election promise of a minimum income scheme. “You should apologise to the country as you have insulted the poor by opposing a scheme meant for their benefit,” Surjewala said. “Don’t make fun of the poor, the country will not forgive you.”

Surjewala said that while his party has differences with Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, the Congress does not insult her and uses the Hindi suffix of “ji” to indicate its respect for her.

“You [Modi] don’t need alcohol, you are so high on arrogance,” Surjewala said when criticising the prime minister for mocking the minimum income scheme.

On March 8, Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav had refuted the Congress’s claim that it had left seven seats for the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh. The alliance had excluded the Congress in its tie-up but Yadav had earlier in March claimed the Congress is part of the alliance.

On Monday, the Congress president had promised an income support of Rs 72,000 per annum to the poorest 20% families of the country if the party comes to power in the upcoming General Elections. The scheme will be called “Nyoontama Aay Yojana, or NYAY”.