LUCKNOW: At a rally in Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav took on Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a reference to a Gujarat Tourism TV advertisement. "I request the century's biggest superstar, please don't do any ad campaigns for Gujarat's gadhas (donkeys)," Akhilesh said, without naming any names, but clearly referring to an ad in which Amitabh Bachchan gives the viewers a glimpse of a "Wild Ass Sanctuary" near Ahmedabad.

The UP Chief Minister’s remark followed PM Modi’s comments at a Fatehpur rally, where the Prime Minister accused the Samajwadi Party of playing the religious card. "If a village has a kabristan (graveyard), it should also have a shamshaan ghat (cremation ground). If there's electricity on Ramzan, it should also be there on Diwali. There must be bijli (power) both on Eid and Holi... There should be no discrimination," PM Modi had said, in a comment that drew widespread criticism.

Official statistics contradict the PM’s claim, showing that power supply on Eid (6 July 2016) was 13,500 MW while the power supply on Diwali (28 Oct to Nov 1, 2016) was 15,400 MW per day with a 24 hours supply on all 5 days. Akhilesh Yadav responded directly to the PM’s comments, saying "You revere Ganga maiyya (river Ganga). Why don't you swear on the Ganga and tell the Samajwadi Party government giving 24-hour electricity in Varanasi or not?"

The Uttar Pradesh elections have seen all sides slugging it out, with the rhetoric at rallies across the state indicative of just how bitter the fight is. Although in some cases personal attacks have taken an ugly turn -- such as the comments on the graveyard and cremation ground -- the election rhetoric is being repeated across districts as a story of sorts.

“Rahul Gandhi’s statement about PM Modi peeping in people’s bathrooms has proved to be a huge hit,” a Congress party worker says in Amethi. "I know Prime Minister Narendra Modi loves to search on Google. He loves to peep into others' bathrooms… He should continue to do what he loves to do but he should also focus on fulfilling the promise of providing jobs to youth," Rahul Gandhi had said at a press conference at the beginning of first phase of polling. The comment was in response to PM Modi’s attack on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “Only Doctor sahab knows the art of taking a bath with a raincoat on,” PM Modi had said.

What’s worth noting, however, is that while Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi are largely responding to the attacks directed at them or their party members, it is the BJP politicians leading the fray.

One of the best examples of how the attack on Akhilesh and Rahul has been tackled is the acronym for SCAM. At a rally in Meerut, PM Modi said that "Scam" is an acronym for Samajwadi Party, Congress, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati -- in a statement in line with the BJP rhetoric that all three parties -- Congress, SP and BSP -- and their political leaders have contributed to corruption and goondagiri in Uttar Pradesh.

Akhilesh Yadav hit back, saying that SCAM actually stands for “Save Country From Amit Shah and Modi.”

The personalised attacks, however, are not limited to the above. For instance, in an apparent dig at Akhilesh Yadav’s bitter fight with father Mulayam Singh, the Prime Minister invoked the example of Lord Krishna. “Lord Krishna was born in UP and made Gujarat his site of action. I was born in Gujarat and UP has adopted me,” PM Modi said. “ “Uttar Pradesh is my ‘mai-baap’ (parents). I am not the son who would betray his ‘mai-baap’. You have adopted me and it is my duty to work for you. Vote for a full majority BJP government. I promise to show you the ways of all the problems you are facing within five years.”

In Kaptanganj, Amit Shah, directed the criticism at both Rahul Gandhi and Akhilesh Yadav, saying that “one has disappointed his mother,” while “the other has made his father suffer.” Bringing the focus back to caste and community, Shah added that “if your caste and religion do not suit them, they will not give you the laptops. But the BJP will give free laptops to every youth without any bias.”

In Nodi, Shah made a similar point, saying that voters will give a befitting reply to two "yuvrajs" (princes) who looted the state and the Centre.