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Lok Sabha elections 2019 ‘Congress DNA to divide people’: BJP slams Sidhu’s appeal to Muslim voters

Sidhu’s comments drew an angry response from BJP which alleged that it was in the Congress’ DNA to divide the people.

lok sabha elections Updated: Apr 16, 2019 18:46 IST
Aditya Nath Jha
Aditya Nath Jha
Hindustan Times, Patna
BJP,Navjot Singh Sidhu,Muslim voters
Sidhu’s comments drew an angry response from BJP which alleged that it was in the Congress’ DNA to divide the people.(Sameer Sehgal/Hindustan Times)

Cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu courted controversy on Monday when he appealed to Muslims to cast their votes for the Congress in order to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sidhu made the remarks while addressing an election rally in Katihar where he was canvassing for Congress candidate Tariq Anwar. “You comprise 64% of the total population in the constituency. If you get united, you can uproot Modi from Delhi,” he said.

“Congress might have once played a role in the freedom movement but this party is now known for encouraging ‘tukde tukde gang’ and is seeking evidence of the valour of soldiers,” said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Terming religion a very private relationship between man and his God, a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court, in a majority judgment on January 2, 2017, had held that an appeal for votes during elections on the basis of religion, caste, race, community or language, even that of the electorate, will amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ and call for disqualification of the candidate.

The Supreme Court on April 8 last issued a notice to the Election Commission (EC) on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking strict action against political parties if their spokespersons and representatives deliver speeches or make remarks in the media pertaining to religion or caste.

“We want the EC to take cognisance of Sidhu’s speech and initiate necessary action against him in the light of the SC judgment,” Bihar’s deputy chief minister Sushil Modi said in Darbhanga.

Katihar district magistrate-cum-returning officer, Punam, has directed the local SDO to look into the matter and submit a report. Punam said, “The civil SDO has been directed to look into the matter and submit a report. Action will be taken against the leader after we get the report,” she said.

For NDA leaders, Sidhu’s speech came as a much-awaited weapon to corner the opposition. Katihar district BJP president Manoj Roy said, “Sidhu has violated the model code of conduct and his speech has created a clear rift between the Hindu and Muslims.”

JD-U leader Sanjeev Srivastava declared it “a gross violation of the model code of conduct as well as the Supreme Court judgment”.

Bihar state Congress party spokesperson BK Thakur said Sidhu’s speech was “not dignified”. “This seems an outburst of BJP leaders’ divisive speeches,” he added.

Sidhu, who is a star campaigner of the Congress, could not be contacted for comments.

In a similar incident at Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, BSP chief Mayawati had warned the Muslims not to split votes between Congress and her alliance that led to a ban on her campaigning for 48 hours.

UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath, SP leader Azam Khan and BJP leader Menaka Gandhi have also had to face action such speeches and seeking votes on basis of religion.

The comments by former cricketer at a rally in Katihar, where he was canvassing in support of veteran Congress leader and former union minister Tariq Anwar,

Sidhu’s comments drew an angry response from BJP which alleged that it was in the Congress’ DNA to divide the people. “Congress might have once played a role in the freedom movement but this party is now known for encouraging ‘tukde tukde gang’ and is seeking evidence of the valour of soldiers,” said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.

“It is part of the Congress’ DNA to divide. It is not a new norm in this party.” He attacked Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for her criticism of the saffron party over its interpretation of nationalism. How does Sidhu’s call to 64 per cent of minorities in the area to unite, help the country, he asked.

First Published: Apr 16, 2019 18:46 IST