The Election Commission is examining a complaint against Aam Aadmi Party leader Bhagwant Mann, who is accused of inciting supporters to throw stones on rival Shiromani Akali Dal leaders during the campaign for the February 4 Punjab polls.
The AAP, making its Punjab assembly poll debut, is locked in a bitter fight with the Akali Dal that has been ruling the state with coalition partner BJP for the past decade.
AAP parliamentarian Mann, a professional comedian, is trying to get into the 117-member state assembly from Jalalabad constituency where Akali Dal head and the chief minister’s son, Sukhbir Singh Badal, is his main competitor.
Mann was caught on camera on January 4 instigating supporters to throw stones at Akali leaders.
“They will not get votes but stones. There will be black marketing of stones within the coming days. The identity of stone-pelters is never known,” he said at a rally in Mansa.
The Akalis released the video and complained to the poll panel.
Chief election commissioner Nasim Zaidi said on Thursday the Akali complaint is being looked into.
Mann has had its share of controversies. He was suspended from the Lok Sabha during the winter session in December after he was found guilty of putting Parliament’s security at risk by posting a video of its premises.
Hate-filled rhetoric is not uncommon in Indian elections, but Mann’s case could provoke deeper scrutiny from the poll panel after Sukhbir Badal’s convoy was attacked with stones in Jalalabad on Sunday. At least four Akali supporters were wounded in the incident.
Sukhbir Badal’s Union minister-wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal added fuel to the charged atmosphere after she reacted angrily to the incident of a man hurling a shoe at her 89-year-old father-in-law, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, at a rally on Wednesday.
“If the CM were to tell SAD workers to turn violent, AAP workers will not stay alive,” she said, threatening an “eye for an eye”. The chief minister was wounded in the eye as the shoe broke his glasses.
According to the poll panel, AAP has not complained against central minister.
The violence is not recent. Since last year, both AAP and Akali workers have clashed at rallies and registered police complaints against each other. AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s car was attacked in Ludhiana last February.
The AAP has fielded Jarnail Singh against chief minister Badal for the Lambi constituency. Singh, who had thrown a shoe at former Union finance minister P Chidambaram, became a legislator when AAP swept the Delhi polls in 2014.
He is now considered a contender for Punjab chief minister’s post if AAP forms the next government.