Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar has said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should have verified his remarks before claiming that Pawar had said he liked Pakistan, PTI reported on Friday.

Modi had said at a rally in Nashik on Thursday that Pawar had said he liked the neighbouring country. Last week, Pawar had said Pakistanis were hospitable towards Indians, and alleged that the “ruling class here” was spreading rumours for political gains.

“The prime minister said I have love for our neighboring country....I have been defence minister of this country,” Pawar said at a meeting of party workers in Aurangabad on Friday. “The prime minister should have verified my statement before criticising me.”

“I had said that political and military leaders of Pakistan keep making false statements against India to maintain their clout in Pakistani politics,” Pawar said. “These words do not describe my love for Pakistan. I will not criticise Modi further because I do not want to hurt the dignity of the prime minister’s office.”

The Maharashtra Assembly elections will be held in a single phase on October 21, and the results will be declared on October 24.

“When the country is united over the decision on Kashmir [to abrogate special status], Congress and NCP leaders have not cooperated,” Modi had said. “I can understand the confusion of the Congress. But Sharad Pawar? I feel bad when an experienced leader like him makes wrong statements for votes. He said he likes the neighbouring country. But every one knows where the terror factory is.”

‘Lot of resentment against BJP-led government’

Pawar also claimed there was a lot of resentment against the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Maharashtra, PTI reported. “There was anger against the Narendra Modi government before 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” he said. “But Pulwama attack changed the entire situation. Only another Pulwama attack-like situation can change people’s mind.”

The veteran politician said the Congress and his party were trying to bring “secular forces” together. “We are trying to take Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, Samajwadi Party and other smaller parties with us,” Pawar added. He said his party was willing to form an alliance with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena but the Congress was against it.

Pawar said leaders who left the Nationalist Congress Party or the Congress for the BJP and the Shiv Sena did so for the development of their constituencies. “But during my career of 52 years, I was not in power for a long time,” Pawar added. “Yet it did not hamper the development of Baramati [his former constituency].”