Narendra Modi addresses the rally in Faizabad on Monday. (PTI)
May 5: Narendra Modi today took Ram’s name for the first time this poll campaign, pulling up the religious element that has at times simmered under the surface of the development agenda he has been pushing.
If the venue seemed carefully chosen — Faizabad is the “twin” of Ayodhya, just 10km away — so did the stage props: a giant portrait of Ram and a picture of a Ram temple model that formed the backdrop.
Modi repeatedly invoked Ram and kept prefacing his remarks with a reference to “this land of Ram”. The crowd responded with chants of “Jai Shri Ram”.
Following a Congress complaint, the Election Commission — whom Modi had dared yesterday to move against him — sought a report on the speech and the stage backdrop from the district magistrate. The local administration has sent a notice to BJP candidate Lallu Singh.
The model code of conduct bans appeals for votes on the ground of caste or community, or the use of any place of worship “as forum for election propaganda”. It also bans any activity that may aggravate differences or cause tension between communities. A sample of quotes from Modi’s nearly hour-long speech:
I assure you from Bhagwan Ram’s land that I shall fight corruption all my life.
In the holy land of Ram, can you forgive those (the Congress) who broke promises?
I bow to the holy land of Ram. Mahatma Gandhi always defined good governance as Ram Rajya.
Modi avoided mention of the demand for a Ram temple at Ayodhya’s disputed site, in keeping with a BJP policy to play down its traditional planks that could deter prospective allies.
However, a polarising agenda has rarely been far from the surface. In Assam, Modi referred to Bangladeshi “infiltrators”, suggesting that rhinos were being killed at Kaziranga to create room for them.
In Asansol yesterday, he drew a line between “refugees who are sons and daughters of Bharat Mata, do Durga Puja” and immigrants who swell “the ruling party’s vote bank”.
Repeated violations of the model code can even lead to de-recognition. But the poll panel’s practice is to ask police to register an FIR, ban the errant politician from campaigning, sometimes bar him from specific places, and seek a written apology and a promise not to repeat the act.