New Delhi: BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi appealed to voters to ensure his party's victory in 300 Lok Sabha constituencies, but his use of Kargil hero Vikram Batra's oft-quoted phrase "Yeh dil maange more" sparked a controversy with Batra's parents raising objections.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. File pic
The Bharatiya Janata Party defended Modi saying the martyr's quote was not the family's property, but the Congress attacked the BJP for insulting the war hero.
Modi, at his first election rally in Palampur in Kangra district, the hometown of Captain Batra, said: "When we take the name of Maj. Somnath Sharma (the first recipient of the Param Vir Chakra, awarded posthumously for his bravery in the November 1947 Kashmir operations) and Vikram Batra, we feel proud. Our mind says - 'yeh dil maange more'."
He used the phrase several times during his rallies in Himachal Pradesh to stir up the sentiments of the people of the hill state, where a large chunk of population comprises serving as well as retired servicemen.
Using the slogan, Modi urged the people to ensure that BJP gets 300 seats.
"I ask you to make the lotus win with 300 seats because 'Yeh dil maange more' just like Vikram Batra, who gave his life for the country in the Kargil war," Modi said in Mandi later, donning a traditional Himachali cap.
Batra was awarded the Param Vir Chakra posthumously for his bravery in the Krgil war. He used 'yeh dil maange more' as a battle slogan, which became widely popular.
Modi's use of the slogan was disapproved of by the martyr's family, who said their son's sacrifice should not be politicised.
Batra's septuagenarian father G.L. Batra, whose wife Kamal Kant is in the fray for the first time as an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate from Hamirpur seat, took strong offence to the use of "Yeh dil maange more" slogan for soliciting votes.
"The BJP is just trying to take credit in politics at this point in time by politically using the slogan of a martyr," Batra told IANS over phone from Palampur.
Challenging Modi, he said: "If he is so indebted to the martyrs, he must withdraw his party's candidate against my wife."
An emotional Kamal Kant, who is contesting against BJP's Anurag Thakur, said she was never approached by the BJP for the election.
"Modi was in charge of the BJP in Himachal during the Kargil war. He was in Palampur when Vikram died. Why didn't he visit us or any martyr's family then? Why remember us after 15 years," she said.
"The AAP has honoured us by fielding me. We have never referred to Vikram's name or slogan in the election campaign, then who is the BJP to do it? It has never thought about the martyr earlier," she added.
Stirring another controversy, BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi defended Modi, saying Batra's slogan was not the "property" of his family.
"The comments were for the martyr, not for his mother. The words of a martyr are to be respected. A family cannot have copyright over the term and it can be used by everyone," Lekhi told reporters in New Delhi.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, meanwhile, criticised the BJP saying Modi "stooped to a new political low by denigrating the memory of a proud soldier".
"He is playing with the emotions of the family of the martyr. We deprecate petty attempts to usurp the memory of those who lay their lives for the country. He should apologise to the family," Surjewala told IANS.
In his rallies in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Modi appealed to the young voters, and promised to fulfill their dreams "broken in the last decade".