Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigned for a controversial Bharatiya Janata Party candidate on Thursday, asking people gathered at a rally in Maharashtra’s Rahuri city to re-elect the local legislator who faces a dozen criminal charges, including that of murder and extortion.
The Prime Minister’s support to Shivaji Kardile, ironically, came in a speech exhorting the public to shun tainted politicians of rivals Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
“If they want (you) to vacate houses or shops, the bahubali (strongman) comes to your doorstep. The time has come to send these bahubalis to jail,” Modi said, blaming the Cong-NCP combine, which was in an alliance until recently, for ‘encouraging criminalisation of politics”.
Maharashtra goes to polls on October 15 to elect a new state government.
The BJP nominee Kardile, who was on the stage with Modi on Thursday, spent a year behind bars in 2002 for his role in the district cooperative bank scam. In 2011, he was booked for murder and subsequently for criminal intimidation, forgery and attempted murder in other cases.
“All these cases against me have been slapped by my rivals to defame me. The rivals may have been making it an issue but the people of my constituency are with me,” Kardile said in his defence.
Thursday’s campaign rally was not the first instance of the PM seeking votes for a tainted candidate. On Tuesday, he shared stage with Anil Gote, an accused in the multi-crore Telgi scam.
The BJP’s rivals are increasingly accusing it of nominating persons with criminal background. Out of the 55 people the party has poached from its rivals ahead of the Maharashtra assembly polls, three face criminal charges.