Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that the government has not found any evidence to back former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s claim that six surgical strikes were conducted during the tenure of the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance government.

“To the extent that I know of such things – all army chiefs have said such a thing has not happened on their watch,” Modi told the Hindustan Times in an interview. “What kind of surgical strike was it? Who issued the orders? Or was it a non-violent procession? Where are the orders? These are the questions they should be asked to answer. After all, I wasn’t in charge then.

He said that by conducting the surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 2016 and the Balakot air strikes in February this year, India has sent Pakistan a message that the costs of sponsoring terror attacks will be significant.

The prime minister, in response to a question about complaints made to the Election Commission about violations of the Model Code of Conduct, claimed that the Congress has decided not to allow the poll panel to perform its job. “Therefore, everywhere, they have people, professionals, who e-mail complaints, making sure the EC can’t do anything else,” he alleged. The poll panel has cleared Modi of several allegations of violating the poll code.

Modi also implied that the Congress has dragged the Supreme Court into the election, which he said has never happened before. “Irrespective of whether there are elections or not, we have to respect institutions,” Modi added.

The prime minister once again enumerated the list of abuses the Congress and other Opposition parties have allegedly hurled at him. “I have been called Duryodhana [Congress General Secretary] by Priyanka Gandhi, Aurangzeb by [Congress leader] Sanjay Nirupam, a Hindu terrorist by Deen Dayal Bairwa, an impotent person by Narayan Rane,” he said.

“In 2016, [Congress chief] Rahul Gandhi said I am a broker in the blood of soldiers,” Modi said. “In 2007, Sonia Gandhi called me merchant of death.”

The Congress had criticised Modi for his remark at a rally on May 4, claiming that while Rajiv Gandhi was considered “Mr Clean”, he died as “Corrupt No 1”. In response, Modi challenged the Congress to contest the polls in Rajiv Gandhi’s name.

The prime minister said the youth of present-day India want to move beyond caste politics, towards a “new age development agenda”. “Three issues are there [in the polls],” he said. “One development. Two, inclusive development. Three, development in all directions.”

Modi said this election will prove to be the turning point in India’s rise in the world. “I am glad that this election has brought out the differences between the two sides clearly. Now, the people of India will be able to make a clear choice between the two ways of looking at the country. Those who say family first or those who say India first. Those who send love letters when terror strikes or those who answer terrorists in their own language. Those who stand with ‘tukde-tukde’ gang or those who stand with the Armed forces,” Modi said.

Dismissing the claims made by some experts who feel the Bharatiya Janata Party will not get more than 180 seats in the Lok Sabha elections, the prime minister said the same people had said the same thing in 2014.

Modi claimed that the unrest in Kashmir is confined to “two and a half districts”. He blamed the problem on “match-fixing” done by some political families in the state. “We are still suffering from what Rajiv Gandhi and Jammu and Kashmir National Conference did in 1987,” Modi said, referring to the rigging of the 1987 Assembly polls in the state.

The Lok Sabha elections are being held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. The results will be declared on May 23.