With the Bijnore police registering an FIR against senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Amit Shah on Sunday for his alleged "hate speech’’, the war of words between the Congress and the BJP turned shrill.
Mr. Shah, who is BJP general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh, has been booked under Section 153A and Section 125 of the Representation of People Act for inciting Jats of Muzaffarnagar to vote against the Samajwadi Party to avenge the killing of their community members in last year’s riots.
Soon after the FIR was registered, the BJP once again defended Mr. Shah to the hilt and said it was the Congress which was communalising the elections by having its president Sonia Gandhi appeal to the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid to ensure against the division of the "secular’’ vote.
The Congress, in turn, described the BJP’s defence of Mr. Shah as a "flagrant and crude’’ justification. As for Ms. Gandhi meeting the Shahi Imam, the Congress position has been that the party leadership interacted with the leadership of all faiths.
Meanwhile, in a separate petition to the Election Commission, the CPI(M) said Mr. Shah’s speeches – aimed at spreading hatred between communities – were not just a violation of the Model Code of Conduct but also a criminal act.
The Congress – which had made a similar petition on Saturday – approached the Election Commission on Sunday demanding action against Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje for allegedly issuing open threats. Referring to Congress party’s Saharanpur candidate Imran Masood’s threat to cut BJP’s prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi to pieces, she is reported to have said ``let the elections be over, we will see who is cut into pieces."
While there was no official word from the Election Commission on these petitions, sources maintained that the matter was being examined. Meanwhile, reports from Bijnor indicated an FIR had been filed against of Mr. Shah.
Even as the Congress accused the BJP of returning to its core agenda of communal polarisation, there is apprehension that the party maybe playing into the hands of the Hindutva forces by keeping the tempo up on the communalisation of the elections. "If we remain silent on Mr. Shah’s statements and Cobrapost sting operation findings that the Babri Masjid demolition was a meticulously planned operation, then we would be accused of soft Hindutva,’’ said a party leader; indicating the dilemma faced by the Congress.
The dilemma apart, the Congress position is that secularism is an article of faith for the party and integral to the "idea of India’’ which the Grand Old Party claims to represent. Stating that BJP represented a cocktail of "communalism and crony capitalism’’, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said: "The BJP agenda is to swallow the idea of India just like Mr. Modi has swallowed up the BJP.’’