April 5: Narendra Modi’s right-hand man, Amit Shah, has allegedly told voters in Muzaffarnagar the general election was an opportunity to “take revenge” — a comment that the BJP today said “captured the mood of the nation”.
“This election is about voting out the government that protects and gives compensation to those who killed Jats. It is about revenge and protecting honour,” Shah is heard telling a group of Jats in footage recorded on Thursday but aired on TV today.
“In Uttar Pradesh, especially western UP, it is an election for honour. It is an election to take revenge for the insult, and for teaching a lesson to those who committed injustice,” he is heard saying.
The Congress today petitioned the Election Commission to ban Shah from campaigning throughout India.
Police officers in Muzaffarnagar district claimed the statement was made in a village that houses the Batteesaa khap, a sub-sect of the Jat community that rules the sugarcane belt of western Uttar Pradesh.
BJP legislator Suresh Rana, accused of inciting tension between Muslims and Jats during the September 2013 riots in Muzaffarnagar, is seen standing by Shah’s side as he makes the comments.
In another meeting with Rajput, Gujjar and Dalit leaders, BJP general secretary Shah is heard saying: “A man can live without food or sleep. He can live when he’s thirsty and hungry. But when he is insulted, he can’t live. The insult has to be avenged.”
The Congress told the poll panel the speech intended to incite passions and argued that “de-recognition” of the BJP would be the most appropriate action for the manner in which its leaders had been repeatedly violating the code of conduct.
Shah’s words that the election was about “badla” (revenge) and protection of “izzat” (honour) are being seen by the Congress and other parties as an incitement against Muslims. He appeared to be invoking Jat pride while referring to people who, he claimed, minted billions by slaughtering cows.
“This is the real manifesto of the BJP,” claimed Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, asking Modi not to release another document as “his conscience keeper had already exposed his agenda”.
BJP president Rajnath Singh, however, claimed that Shah was calling for revenge against the Congress and not any religion.
Party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman added: “There has been lot of discussion on what Amit Shah has said in a public meeting in Muzaffarnagar. He actually captured the mood of the nation.”
Although the Congress expects stern action from the poll panel, including registration of criminal cases against Shah, the commission usually lets off violators with a rebuke and a warning.
The incident has, however, given the Congress enough ammunition to attack the BJP. Surjewala claimed: “…as the election nears, Amit Shah has unleashed an abominable conspiracy to spread the fire of hatred.
“He exhorted one community to take revenge on another and the accused in the recent rioting, Suresh Rana, was present with him. We condemn this perverse ploy to create communal tension before the polls.”
According to the Congress complaint, TV channels showed Shah as saying: “One vote can do two things: while Modi will become Prime Minister in Delhi, Mulayam’s government will fall in Lucknow.”
Surjewala accused “Modi and co” of trying to replay the game of Gujarat 2002 and appealed to every sensible Indian to defeat forces out to divide India.
Referring to L.K. Advani’s remark that Modi was a good event manager, he said: “Event managers and crony capitalists can create a facade of well-being all around. But the BJP and Modi forget that the country can be run by leadership, policies and programmes, and not by event managers or crony capitalists.”
The Congress has been repeatedly hinting that a few corporate houses were propping up Modi.
The Samajwadi Party appealed to the poll panel to examine Shah’s recorded statement and take action.
“We know the BJP is growing desperate as they know they will not get the kind of result they were expecting in Uttar Pradesh. Hence, this fresh efforts to polarise votes in western Uttar Pradesh,” a media release said.
Muzaffarnagar votes on April 10