With the war of words between the BJP and its rival political parties flaring up over Amit Shah's speech in Muzaffarnagar seeking "revenge" for riots, the Election Commission on Saturday initiated an inquiry.
EC sources said the Uttar Pradesh chief electoral officer has been asked to seek tapes of the speech Shah made in Muzzafarnagar. This is the first step EC takes before initiating action on any poll-related offence.
The Congress had earlier in the day moved the poll panel seeking Shah’s arrest. The party also said that Shah, regarded BJP’s prime ministerial candidate’s right hand man, be banned from campaigning for his party. Samajwadi Party too has made similar demands, calling for Shah to be restrained from entering UP.
Read: Cong moves EC for strong action against Amit Shah
Apart from being Modi’s trusted aide, Shah is also the party's general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh.
"In Uttar Pradesh, especially western UP, it is an election for honour. It is an election to take revenge for the insult. It is an election to teach a lesson to those who have committed injustice," Shah was quoted as telling a meeting of Jat leaders two days ago in Muzaffarnagar.
Shah's statement came under sharp attack from other political parties but the BJP defended him with spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman saying he has “captured the mood of the nation”.
Party spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi also saw nothing wrong with Shah's remarks.
"UP government has insulted the people there. It is not a question of Hindus and Muslims. Those who went there for secular tourism have insulted the people. Instead of putting balm on the wounds of the victims, they sprinkled salt. Revenge should be taken for this insult," said Naqvi in effort to put a spin on Shah's remarks.
Read: BJP busy in campaigning, while SP working for people: Akhilesh
In its complaint to the Election Commission, Congress accused him of creating animosity between communities. The party demanded an FIR against Shah under Section 125 of the Representation of Peoples Act.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that with Shah’s reported utterance, “the real manifesto of the opposition party has come out in the open.”
"BJP perhaps will not need a manifesto any longer. Modi and his conscience-keeper Amit Shah have attempted to divide the people of the country through their hate and divisive speeches on the basis on caste and religion," said Surjewala in apparent reference to delay in release of BJP's manifesto.
The Election Commission should immediately order registration of a criminal case against Shah for his inflammatory remarks aimed at spreading communal hatred, said Aam Aadmi Party in a statement.
The ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh called Modi and his aides fascists while BSP alleged that the BJP's PM nominee was using Shah to vitiate the atmosphere and cause communal polarisation while himself wearing the mask of development.
JD(U) leader K C Tyagi said, "These words are hateful. In a democracy you can talk about change through vote only. Amit Shah's language is that of a dictator and he is scaring the minority community of UP".
Read: Ramdev defends Amit Shah's remarks
But BJP countered Congress’s charge by pointing out that its Saharanpur candidate Imran Masood had allegedly threatened to chop Modi into pieces. The party has made it an election issue as well.
In an election rally in Rajasthan on Friday, state chief minister Vasundhra Raje said: “Congress candidate from Saharanpur said that Modi will be chopped to pieces. Election would make it clear that who is cut to size or who survives the election.”
Congress countered it saying party vice-president Rahul Gandhi had disapproved of the remarks in a public rally in Masood’s constituency. On Raje’s comment, Surjewala said she is a senior Opposition leader and "instead of following Modi and Shah, she should practice decency and dignity in politics."