“Petty statements by those claiming to be BJP’s well-wishers are deviating the campaign from the issues of development and good governance”

A day after political storm was kicked up over Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia’s “hate speech”, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi moved into damage control mode on Tuesday and disapproved of “irresponsible” statements.

“Petty statements by those claiming to be BJP’s well-wishers are deviating the campaign from the issues of development and good governance. I disapprove (of) any such irresponsible statements and appeal to those making them to kindly refrain from doing so,” Mr. Modi said in a number of tweets. However, he did not mention any names but his obvious reference was to controversial utterances by Mr. Togadia and Bihar party leader Giriraj Singh. Though the BJP distanced itself from such statements, its allies and arch-rivals condemned such utterances.

Stressing upon the core issues during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections which the BJP has focussed on, Mr. Modi said in one of his tweets: “With great happiness, the entire nation is looking towards BJP for going to people solely on the issue of good governance and development.”

While Mr. Togadia later denied having spoken about forcible occupation of a house purchased by a Muslim in a Hindu-dominated area of Bhavnagar, BJP leader Giriraj Singh, also a Lok Sabha candidate in the ongoing polls, had asked the Modi critics to go to Pakistan and despite the party leadership expressing its strong disapproval, he has reiterated his views.

Jaitley urges restraint

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley who is contesting from Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency too cautioned party’s well-wishers to “exercise utmost restraint and concentrate on issue of governance which is the theme of our campaign.” He said that any statement to the contrary would only help the party’s rivals.

Writing in his campaign diary, Mr. Jaitley, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said the momentum was with the party and acceptability of its leader was also high as against the Congress campaign which was “more abstract and confused”.

“The voters expect an extremely responsible response from us. We have fought this election on issues of governance. We must carry every section of society with us. People expect us to govern and deliver,” he said. Mr. Jaitley said the BJP, its leaders and workers would be increasingly put under public scrutiny. “Even an isolated irresponsible statement will bring discredit to us.”