Congress candidate from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh Imran Masood sparked off a major outrage when he said in a campaign speech that he would cut BJP prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi to pieces if the leader attempted to turn UP into Gujarat.
Masood’s speech drew strong condemnation from BJP which said abuse of Modi had become an expression of “aggressive secularism” and Masood’s comments only reflected a trend of personalized attacks by top Congress leaders against the Gujarat chief minister.
Congress said the party abjured violence whether in words or otherwise and had asked Masood to explain his remarks but party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala did not say whether the candidate would be withdrawn or expelled.
Accompanying his words with a cutting motion, Masood was caught on camera saying, “If Modi tries to make Uttar Pradesh into Gujarat, then we will chop him into tiny pieces… I am not scared of getting killed or attacking someone. I will fight against Modi. He thinks UP is Gujarat. Only 4% Muslims are there in Gujarat while there are 42% Muslims in UP,” he said.
Once the video began to be aired on television, Masood, whose uncle Rashid Masood was the first politician to be disqualified following conviction, found himself in the midst of a raging controversy. Significantly, while he said he should have been more circumspect with his words, the Congress candidate remained otherwise quite unfazed and did not offer any apology.
Besides making misleading and provocative claims on demographics, the Congress candidate seems clearly guilty of a hate speech and a case has been registered against him while BJP petitioned the Election Commission seeking action against him.
Masood later said he should have been more careful but remained otherwise unrepentant. Saharanpur police lodged an FIR against him for violating the model code of conduct which has booked him under Section 125 (promoting enmity between classes in connection with election) and other IPC sections.
Reacting to Masood’s statement, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said, “Sonia Gandhi, Lalu Prasad, Digvijay Singh, Mani Shankar Aiyar have all led attacks on Modi, in improper language. It started with Sonia Gandhi’s words ‘Maut Ka Saudagar’.”
Jaitley added, “The mindset behind these attacks being made in unacceptable language is that an abuse on Modi is an expression of aggressive secularism. Abuse on Modi has now graduated to intimidation. Congress has got desperate at the Centre in anticipation of defeat.”
Party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said Masood’s language was part of Congress’s deliberate strategy, and demanded that the Election Commission should take action against him.
When contacted by TOI, Imran denied using derogatory language. “I don’t use foul language. As far as talking about Modi is concerned, I want to make it clear that I will talk about him and his deeds,” he told TOI on phone. He added that he was not afraid of any inquiry as he had done no wrong.
BJP president Rajnath Singh said the incident showed the extent to which the Congress and its candidates are willing to stoop to in a battle they know they have already lost.
The EC has sought the footage of Masood’s speech. District magistrate of Saharanpur has ordered an inquiry into the incident. “SDM concerned has been asked to secure a copy of the video footage and a detailed report will be prepared once we have the transcript of the video,” he said.