Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday used his Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, to counter West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s “outsider” tag for the Bharatiya Janata Party, reported NDTV.

“Didi’s party is saying now that she will be contesting from Varanasi in 2024 Lok Sabha election,” Modi said at a rally in Sonarpur in South 24 Parganas district, according to ANI. “Two things are clear from this statement. One, Didi has accepted her defeat in Bengal. Right or wrong? Otherwise, why will she go outside. Second, Didi is already looking for a place for herself outside the state.”

“Welcome to Varanasi,” he added. “There is a ship that goes from Haldia to Varanasi. One more thing, the people of my Benaras, they are so large hearted they won’t call you a tourist or outsider. They are as large hearted as the people of Bengal.”

Election in West Bengal are being held in eight phases with the first phase being held on March 27 and the second on Thursday. The third phase will take place on April 6. Counting of votes will be held on May 2.

The prime minister also took a dig at Banerjee over her refusal to speak at an event in Kolkata in January after people chanted “Jai Shri Ram” when she rose to address the gathering.

In Sonarpur, Modi said that the Bengal chief minister will find people with tilak (a religious mark on forehead), chanting Jai Shri Ram in Varanasi. “Didi, then what will happen to you? Who will you be angry with?” he asked. “Don’t be angry with the people of Benaras. They will live with you. They will not let you go to Delhi. They will keep you there itself.”

Modi also criticised Banerjee for the “outsider” tag, saying that it was an insult to the inclusive ideology of freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose and the principles of the Indian Constitution, reported PTI. “When the British tried to divide us, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose said – ‘India is one, and the hopes and aspirations of every Indian are the same’,” Modi quoted Bose as saying. “Today, there is a lot of pain when instead of propagating the ideology of Netaji, TMC and Mamata Didi are talking about bohirgato [outsider].”

Modi said that no Indian is an “outsider” in the state. “When BJP forms the government after May 2, a son of the soil will become the chief minister,” he said. The prime minister also told Banerjee to keep her “Trinamool Congress goons” under control as he referred to the party as “Taka mar company”, which translates to an organisation that loots money. “You keep your TMC goons under check,” Modi said. “Explain to them – Modi is here! Their bullying will no longer be tolerated.”

Modi claimed that Banerjee had contested the Nandigram seat on an impulse. He said that now that the party was sensing the chief minister could lose from the constituency, it was planning to have Banerjee contest another seat. “But some sensible people then told Didi it will be her second big mistake,” he quipped.

BJP engineering communal strife to win polls: Mamata Banerjee

Banerjee, who was addressing a rally in Raidighi in South 24 Parganas district, accused the BJP of engineering communal strife in the state to win the Assembly elections.

The chief minister urged Hindus to be on their guard against the BJP’s attempts to “instigate communal clashes”. She also called upon them to chase away “outsiders” sent to create trouble in their respective localities.

She asked Muslims to not “fall in the trap of a BJP-aided party from Hyderabad and its Bengal ally that are out to polarise votes.” She was apparently referring to All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen and the Indian Secular Front. Both parties have earlier denied Banerjee’s allegations of polarisation.

In an attempt to counter BJP’s charge that the TMC indulged in minority appeasement politics, Banerjee said that she was a devout Hindu who recites the Chandi mantra everyday before leaving her home. “But I believe in our tradition of giving respect to every religion,” she added.

The chief minister also took a dig at BJP leaders having lunch at the homes of dalits. The TMC chief said that she is a Brahmin woman and her all-time associate belongs to the Scheduled Caste, who takes care of her needs and cooks food for her. “I need not advertise this as those bringing five-star hotel lunch to eat at the courtyard of a Dalit home are anti-Dalit, anti-backward caste and anti-minority in nature,” she said.

Banerjee also claimed that the BJP, if elected to power in the state, will implement the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens that will force “many citizens to leave”.

“They will divide West Bengal and its people,” she said. “Remember how they deleted the names of 14 lakh Bengalis and 2 lakh Biharis in the updated NRC in Assam.”

Banerjee also alleged that central forces were terrorising people and asking them to vote for the BJP. “Don’t be intimidated,” she said. “Mothers and sisters challenge them. We have no problems if the forces act impartially to ensure free and fair elections but if they act on behalf of a particular political party, we will protest.”