Togadia booked; EC bars Giriraj from addressing election rallies

Even as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi moved into damage control mode on Tuesday, an FIR was registered against Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia leader for “inciting communal passions” during his rabble-rousing speech in Bhavnagar on Saturday. Meanwhile, the Election Commission has barred Giriraj Singh from addressing election rallies.

The VHP leader has been accused of violating Election Commission notification under sections 153(A), 153(B) and 188 of the Indian Penal Code. “Petty statements by those claiming to be the 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.

He did not mention any names but his obvious reference was to the controversial utterances by Mr. Togadia and Bihar leader Giriraj Singh. Though the BJP distanced itself from such statements, its allies and rivals condemned the statements.

District Collector and Returning Officer P K Solanki said, “An FIR has been filed against him [Mr. Togadia] under sections 153(A), 153(B) and under 188 for violating notification of the Election Commission.”

Stressing the core issues during the 2014 parliamentary elections, 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 denied having spoken about forcible occupation of a house purchased by a Muslim in a Hindu-dominated area of Bhavnagar, BJP leader Giriraj Singh, a Lok Sabha candidate, refused to take back his statement that Modi critics should go to Pakistan.

Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, who is contesting from the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency, cautioned the party’s well-wishers to “exercise utmost restraint and concentrate on the issue of governance, the theme of our campaign.” He said any statement to the contrary would only help rivals. Writing in his campaign diary, Mr. Jaitley, who is also the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said the momentum was with the party and the acceptability of its leader was also high, as against the Congress campaign which is “abstract and confused.’’ “Even an isolated irresponsible statement will bring discredit to us,” he said.

(Additional reporting from PTI)