New Delhi: VHP leader Pravin Togadia on Monday triggered a controversy with a reported anti-Muslim speech, the Congress filing a complaint with the Election Commission and the AAP demanding his immediate arrest. The BJP and RSS, however, defended him, denying he made any hate speech.
VHP leader Pravin Togadia. File pic
Togadia, who was quoted by the media as saying that Muslims should be thrown out of Hindu areas, has termed the news report "fabricated" and slapped a legal notice against the media.
In a letter to the poll panel, the Congress said to describe Togadia's statement "exhorting Hindus to forcibly evict Muslims and take control of their business houses" as a hate speech in violation of the model code of conduct "would be too mild".
"His statement is anti-national, provocative, inflammatory and open threat to people belonging to a particular community," the Congress said.
The letter added that the hate speech was aimed at getting votes for the Bharatiya Janata Party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi "with whom they share the same philosophy and ideology".
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) condemned the alleged hate speech by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad president in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, Saturday when he targeted Muslims for buying properties in certain areas.
The AAP described the speech as "extremely shocking and a shameful act" and added that it "goes against the Constitution which provides equality and freedom for every citizen".
The AAP demanded that the Election Commission "should direct immediate registration of an FIR against Togadia and should take strict action against him, so that he is not allowed to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere during the elections".
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar defended Togadia, saying: "I talked to Togadiaji. He said he did not make such a statement."
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Ram Madhav echoed similar sentiments. "Pravinbhai had not said anything that was attributed to him. It was a fabricated news. No Swayamsevak thinks on those lines," Madhav tweeted.
"No RSS member would ever force such views... We are one nation," he said.
Togadia in his legal notice described the media reports as "false, malafide and mischievous".
He also said the media reports, including by electronic media, show that "there is a bigger conspiracy" against him to defame him and put his life and those of his kin and his aides in danger.
Togadia's alleged hate speech made in Bhavnagar comes close on the heels of BJP candidate from Navada constituency, Giriraj Singh, who said that those who oppose Modi will be sent to Pakistan. Singh has justified his statement.
Amit Shah, the BJP general secretary in charge of the party's affairs in Uttar Pradesh, was also pulled up by the poll panel for his alleged hate speech in Muzaffarnagar.
The Election Commission had banned Shah from campaigning, but it allowed him to resume campaigning after he apologised.
The AAP said Togadia's statement and those by Giriraj Singh and Shah show that "the BJP and its associated organisations like the VHP are trying to inflame communal feelings and communalise the situation in the country for votes".
The Congress's letter to the poll panel also blamed the commission for not taking any action against Giriraj Singh.
"Unfortunately, such statements are allowed and permitted by the BJP to seek votes by spreading hatred amongst different communities and religions. Unless the commission takes stern action against people making such speeches, fair and proper election cannot be conducted."
"Even in the case of Giriraj Singh, the commission has not taken action as per law," the letter said.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission Monday ordered the Patna district administration to lodge an FIR against Giriraj Singh for his remark.
Additional Chief Electoral Officer R. Lakshmanan told media persons here that the poll panel ordered the Patna district magistrate to lodge a case against Giriraj Singh, saying it was a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.