Congress candidate from Saharanpur constituency Imran Masood
On a day when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi expressed disapproval at the language used by Congress candidate from Saharanpur, Imran Masood, the central leadership claimed that since the controversial video clipping was six months old and Masood was then in the Samajwadi Party, there was no ground for withdrawing his candidature.
Read: Cong's Masood threatens to 'chop' Modi, booked
Saharanpur goes to polls on April 10, and the last date to withdraw nominations has passed.
Masood, who recently joined the Congress after the SP denied him the ticket from Saharanpur, has been charged with "spreading hatred by delivering inflammatory speech", threatening BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Read: Five pending cases against Imran Masood
Masood was arrested early on Saturday and sent to 14-day judicial custody for his hate speech against BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. While going to court in police custody, Masood shouted: "I am a committed worker of Congress and ready to go to jail a hundred times because of Modi."
Read: Exercise restraint, Amar advises his ilk
The court of civil judge (junior division) rejected Masood’s bail application, a development that spurred the party high command to mull calling off its vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s rally in the constituency.
Rahul eventually went ahead with the rally and condemned Masood’s statement.
"Congress does not have such a thought process... He should not have used such words against the opposition leader," Rahul said, without naming Masood while addressing a public meeting in Ghaziabad.
Read: No action against Masood would indicate Cong's game plan, says BJP
But other Congress leaders defended the Saharanpur candidate. "The speech which has been recorded through a mobile phone was made on September 18, 2013 whereas Masood joined the Congress only on March 8, 2014," chairman of communication department of the UPCC Satyadev Tripathi said.
"The man standing next to Masood is Sher Singh of Kalheri village of Deoband and he died on December 4, 2013," Tripathi said, adding that when it was delivered the administration had overlooked it as he was then in the ruling party.
Former Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Rita Bahuguna denied the need for any drastic action, saying: "I don't think it is wise to replace a candidate seven days before the election."
Should the Election Commission have the power to ban candidates who make hate speeches?