Bareilly/Lucknow, April 1: BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav were today involved in a catfight over lions.

The lions were at the heart of a roaring debate when Modi took a dig at Akhilesh during his rally in Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, saying that his government was unable to handle lions from Gujarat.

The Gujarat Chief Minister also invited the Yadav family to visit his state to see how the lions at the Gir National Park roamed freely.

“Your chief minister was asking us for lions. We gave them lions. We had hoped they may draw some strength from seeing the lions. But they could not handle the Gujarat lions.

The lions had to be caged.

Netaji, your son, your daughter-in-law, your brother, please come to Gir forests and see how lions roam freely,” Modi told the rally. Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who is Akhilesh Yadav’s father, is often called ‘Netaji’ by his supporters.

Hitting back at Modi over his dig at him, Akhilesh said said such statements were not required from BJP’s PM candidate as the lions had been given to the state as “political courtesy.”

“It’s a political courtesy. If they have given us something we too have returned it. He (Modi) has given us something under exchange and he should also tell that UP had given him “Lakadbhagga” (hyena),” he said, adding Gujarat has publicised its handing over lions to UP. “He should also tell what we have given…I will tell you in detail what the state has given in exchange for lions, which are presently at the Zoo,” he said.

“I have just named one animal(Gir lion) hyena,” Akhilesh said in a veiled attack on Modi. “Tell us names of other animals and we shall give the names.”

Akhilesh told reporters that the lions are presently at the Lucknow Zoo and will be later kept at a Lion Safari spread across 3,000 acres in Etawah.

“Work is going on there and it will be completed soon.

There were some problems due to ongoing elections,” he said.

In a lighter vein, Akhilesh said that during his recent visit to Lucknow Zoo the lions had greeted him twice by “welcoming him” during his entry and “thanking him for bringing them here” as he was leaving.

“As we are not aware of the language of lions, forest officers who used to take care of them told me that they roared to welcome me when I came and then again while I was leaving to thank me,” he added.