Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday asked if “his jawan” should seek the Election Commission’s permission to handle terrorists standing with bombs and guns in front of him. He was addressing an election rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district.

Referring to a gunfight on Sunday morning in Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir, in which two militants were killed, Modi said: “But some people are complaining that why is Modi fighting militants when elections are under way. An armed terrorist is attacking, do my jawans go to the Election Commission to seek permission to kill him?”

The sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections is under way on Sunday.

Modi asked those gathered if they liked the fact that the Indian Army “was sneaking into the enemy’s territory and attacking them”. “It is because of this [actions against terrorists] that people are voting for the lotus symbol,” Modi said. “The nation is voting for the lotus to ensure that those who jail people chanting [Hindu deity] Ram’s name are punished.”

The prime minister said that ever since his government had taken over, “routine cleansing” was being done every second or third day in Kashmir and that “the cleansing is my job”.

Modi dared Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati to withdraw her support to the Congress-led government in Rajasthan after the alleged rape of a Dalit woman in Alwar. The prime minister also referred to an incident where a BJP leader had escorted Mayawati out of a guesthouse after her assault by Samajwadi Party leaders in 1995.

“In Rajasthan, a Dalit daughter was raped,” Modi said. “The Congress is in power there. The Rajasthan government is running because of the Bahujan Samaj Party. The rapists have locked the naamdar’s [dynast’s] lips. Behenji [Mayawati] you will have to answer because a Dalit has been raped in a state supported by your party. What happened to you in the guesthouse affected the women across the country. If you truly care about Dalits and women, withdraw support from the Rajasthan government now.”

Modi claimed that the Opposition had asked for his caste certificate and said that while he was born into a backward community, his caste was “poor” and that he will only work for the poor. “When those who are demanding my caste certificate got a chance to rule, they worked for themselves,” Modi said. “When I was Gujarat chief minister, I worked hard for the poor.”

The prime minister said he was born into poverty. “I was raised in poverty,” Modi said. “I consider myself blessed because I washed the feet of poor people during the Kumbh mela and the feet of sanitation workers.”