March 28: The Congress today scrambled to pull up one of its Uttar Pradesh candidates who has been accused of threatening to chop Narendra Modi into pieces and asked him to apologise to the BJP’s nominee for Prime Minister.
Uttar Pradesh police have filed an FIR against Imran Masood, the Congress candidate from the Saharanpur Lok Sabha constituency, for the inflammatory remarks attributed to him. The Election Commission has also sought details of the speech and ordered a probe.
Imran, 41, is the nephew of Congress leader Rashid Masood, a parliamentarian who was disqualified last year in a corruption case. Imran was earlier with the Samajwadi Party.
The police action followed the circulation of a compact disc featuring a hate speech in which a person purported to be Imran is heard saying: “Hum Modi ki kutti kaat denge (we will cut Modi to pieces)”, if Modi tried to make Uttar Pradesh into a Gujarat.
The Saharanpur senior superintendent of police, Manoj Kumar, said an FIR against Imran had been registered for promoting enmity between different groups and deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings. A section under the Representation of the People Act has also been invoked for promoting enmity in connection with the elections.
Imran told a television news channel this morning that the CD was eight months old when “I was a Samajwadi Party member”. “I just said I will teach him a lesson. I did not say anything else, nothing about chopping,” he added.
Asked whether he would apologise, Imran said if Modi agreed to apologise for his misdeeds in Gujarat, he would.
But he said later: “I should have been more cautious with my words… it was said in the heat of electioneering.”
In Delhi, a deeply embarrassed Congress contacted Imran and sought an explanation. The Congress is worried because, apart from the deplorable content of the alleged speech, such controversies can polarise voters on communal lines, which will only help the BJP. The controversy has broken out ahead of Rahul Gandhi’s rally at Saharanpur tomorrow.
Raj Babbar, the Congress candidate from Ghaziabad, said: “This is not political language. It is not right to instigate people by using such provocative language.”
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said in New Delhi: “The Congress is opposed to all forms of violence, whether in deed or in words, and we tell all our workers that we can fight the ideological battle against Modi without resorting to indecent language. We advise our leaders to abstain from using such language even about our worst critics.”
Surjewala claimed that Imran had told them that his statement had been distorted.
Asked about the party’s constant jibes at Modi on communal riots, Surjewala did not sound defensive. “We are fighting against Modi to protect the idea of India. Everybody knows about the political and administrative responsibility of the Gujarat government for the riots engineered by the BJP. The judiciary is at work to fix accountability but Modi can’t escape his responsibility,” the Congress spokesperson said.
He added: “Maya Kodnani, a minister in the Modi cabinet, and a close aide, is in jail for riots. One MP, Dinu Bogha, is behind bars on murder charges. His best friend Amit Shah is out on bail. Several ministers in his cabinet are facing charges or are convicted.... The captain of such a team can’t escape responsibility. But we can fight this political battle without using bad language.”
Surjewala targeted Modi for lowering the electoral discourse, alleging that the chief minister used cheap language and scornful jibes at senior leaders instead of offering an alternative agenda for governance. “Modi can make people clap using vulgar language but can’t win their trust. People expect dignified behaviour and a constructive agenda from their leaders. Modi’s use of scornful expressions is a reflection of a weak person.”
The Congress had yesterday condemned Modi’s description of Arvind Kejriwal and defence minister A.K. Antony as Pakistan agents, referring to his “AK-47, AK Antony and AK-49” remarks.