Begusarai | Union minister and BJP leader Giriraj Singh today said the Election Commission should ban the use of green flags, often associated with political and religious bodies associated with Muslims, alleging that they spread hate and create a perception of being used in Pakistan.
Known for his hardline Hindutva views that have often triggered controversies, Mr Singh said his fight from this parliamentary constituency is against a “gang” working for “breaking up” India, and asserted that he represents the agenda of cultural nationalism and development.
In an interview to News Agency PTI, the saffron party leader asserted the BJP-led NDA would improve its 2014 tally of 31 seats in Bihar (which has total 40 Lok Sabha seats) and it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself who is the alliance candidate on every seat and all contesting leaders “are his symbols”.
Mr Singh is locked in a triangular contest with RJD’s Tanveer Hasan and young CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar. He had won with a margin of over 1.4 lakh votes from Bihar’s Nawada Lok Sabha constituency in 2014, but has been shifted to Begusarai this time.
He had publicly expressed his anguish over the shift but was placated by the central leadership with party president Amit Shah himself reaching out to him.
The contest here has become one of the most talked about ones in this general election due to Mr Singh being seen as a face of the BJP’s unyielding Hindutva philosophy and Kumar, a former JNU student union leader, presenting himself as a fiery challenger to the saffron ideology. The seat goes to the poll on April 29.
Mr Singh said “supporters of separatism and terrorism” have assembled in the constituency — an apparent attack on Kumar, who has been accused by the BJP of backing student protesters in the JNU who had allegedly raised anti-Indian slogans. Kumar has rejected the allegations.
Mr Singh claimed opposition parties are trying to polarise voters on communal lines, as he referred to Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu’s recent suggestion to Muslims at an election rally in Bihar to vote unitedly to oust Modi from power. The Election Commission on Monday banned Sidhu from campaigning for 72 hours.
Calling Sidhu a close associate of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Mr Singh claimed that Mr Gandhi chose to contest from Wayanad seat in Kerala as part of a “well-planned” strategy to divide India on religious lines as was the case during the pre-independence era leading to the creation of Pakistan.
“Did you see the procession in Wayanad when Rahul Gandhi filed his nomination papers? It seemed he was going to contest from Rawalpindi in Pakistan. The flags seen there bore so much resemblance with Pakistan flags. They spread hate, not love,” he said and demanded that the Election Commission should ban them.
Wayanad has a sizeable Muslim population and the Indian Union Muslim League, a Congress ally in Kerala, has a strong presence in the region. The IUML’s flag is of green colour.
“What does that flag show? Journalists like you ask if I think it is a Pakistani flag. It is not about this. The perception was, when those flags were seen, that this nomination is happening in Rawalpindi,” Mr Singh said.
When told that Muslims have been using green flags long before Pakistan came into being in 1947, Mr Singh shot back, saying, “That is why. To me this is reflective of Pakistan.” Mr Gandhi is fighting election from Waynad in Kerala as well as from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
In a swipe at the opposition party, Mr Singh said the Congress party in its next manifesto seek talk about redefining the minorities in the country.
He said Sidhu has talked about “64 percent” minorities in his speech in Katihar, while they are 98 percent in Kashmir, over 70 percent in Kishanganj and 15-18 percent in Begusarai, but they are called minority everywhere.
Opposition parties, Mr Singh asserted, have no constructive agenda as development has touched the poor for the first time under the Modi government.
Lalu Prasad, the head of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and Communists, who enjoyed influence in the region for decades before their power waned considerably, have “destroyed” Begusarai, he said.
On the other hand, Modi after becoming Prime Minister has worked to revive industries, including a refinery in Barauni and fertilizer projects, the BJP leader said.
Mr Singh said his rivals show a “distorted mindset” over issues of development and nationalism and his job is to awaken people to ensure that they cast their votes for his agenda of cultural nationalism and development.
Asserting that Bihar will throw up a surprise when results are announced with a better tally for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) than 31 seats it got in 2014, Mr Singh said, “Modi is the alliance candidate on every seat and we are all his symbols”.
People voted for PM Modi’s goodwill in 2014, but this time there is goodwill and his government”s work that will result in the NDA getting more votes than the last time, he said.
The presence of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) in the NDA will further help the alliance, he added.
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