BJP president Amit Shah has been accused of delivering a hate speech in the run up to the national elections by the police in Muzaffarnagar, which was devastated by communal violence last year.
The local police in this part of Western Uttar Pradesh, a four-hour drive from Delhi, has chargesheeted Mr Shah based on a video clip of a speech he delivered in April. A local court will now review the charge-sheet, which outlines the police’s alleged evidence against the politician.
On Saturday, important by-elections are being held in the state.
The BJP’s state unit leaders have been accused of trying to polarize voters on religious line by repeatedly warning against the dangers of “love jihad” – a term used by right-wing groups for what they describe as an Islamist strategy to convert Hindu women through seduction, marriage and money.
Mr Shah was named president of the BJP in July; earlier this year, he masterminded the party’s strongest showing in Uttar Pradesh, helping to propel the party to an absolute majority of its own in the parliamentary election.
Mr Shah’s political rivals accuse him of using communal tension to electoral advantage in Uttar Pradesh, a charge he has denied. But during the national election campaign, the 53-year-old was banned by the Election Commission from holding rallies and delivering speeches after it found him guilty of delivering “hate speeches” designed to promote “hatred and ill will” between religions. The ban was lifted after Mr Shah vowed in writing not to use abusive or derogatory language. Mr Shah also faces murder charges in Gujarat, where he was Home Minister for seven years when Mr Modi was chief minister. Mr Shah resigned from the cabinet after his 2010 arrest; he was released on bail. He has denied that he ordered the state police to kill Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife and a witness – top cops had described the group as terrorists on a mission to assassinate Mr Modi.