Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on Thursday hailed his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee as “Bengal tigress” and claimed she would act as a kingmaker in the formation of the next government at the Centre.

The Telugu Desam Party chief on Thursday shared dais with the Trinamool Congress chief at Kharagpur in West Midnapore district. Naidu said Narendra Modi was fighting a lost battle. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister said Modi visited Bengal 16 times for election campaigns. “How many times have you [Modi] come to West Bengal for development work?” he asked.

He accused Modi of “victimising the Trinamool Congress and Mamata Banerjee”. Naidu said the Trinamool Congress should win more seats so that West Bengal has better bargaining power. “We want to save democracy, protect our nation and save our democratic institutions,” he added.

Naidu praised Banerjee for getting the anti-BJP forces together. “Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal is very important because under the leadership of Mamata Banerjee, the country will get a new prime minister,” said Naidu. “She is organising everybody and is going to play a vital role in forming the new government at the Centre.”

Naidu addressed the crowd in English as well as Telugu. Kharagpur has about 30% Telugu population that could prove vital for the Medinipur Lok Sabha seat, reported The Hindu. The TMC has fielded Manas Bhunia from the constituency. The BJP has nominated state president Dilip Ghosh against Bhunia.

‘Is Ram your election agent?’: Mamata Banerjee asks BJP

Mamata Banerjee accused the BJP of doing politics on religious lines. “The BJP did not talk about Ram in five years,” she said. “Now when elections are here, they are talking about Ram. Is Ramchandra their election agent? In the past five years they could not construct a Ram temple. They constructed a statue in Gujarat but not of Gandhiji who was also from the same state. Have they forgotten Gandhiji, Netaji and others?”

Banerjee said Modi misunderstood her remarks. “He came here and claimed I said I want to slap him,” said Banerjee. “I said, I will give him a slap of democracy. He should understand the language first. When I said ‘slap of democracy’ I meant the votes of people. People will democratically slap you through their votes.” On May 7, Banerjee said Modi should get a “tight slap of democracy” for alleging that the Trinamool Congress government in the state was run by extortionist syndicates.

Banerjee accused Kharagpur Town MLA and BJP’s Medinipur candidate Dilip Ghosh of not doing anything for the industrial town. “He has done only one thing which is to take out procession carrying mace,” she said. “I request you to not vote for Dilip Ghosh.”