With India more than half-way through the election, the tenor of the campaign is getting uglier.
At an election rally in Bihar yesterday, a politician declared, “I want to say that if we join forces against Narendra Modi, then we will bury him in Bhagalpur’s soil.”
Present on stage during the controversial statement was Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has logged many hours in a committed political feud with Mr. Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
The declaration was made by Shakuni Choudhary, who recently joined Mr. Kumar’s party, the Janata Dal (United) or JD(U).
Last year, Mr. Kumar truncated a 17-year alliance with the BJP over its decision to centre-stage Mr. Modi in its campaign for the national election. Mr. Kumar is among the 64-year-old’s fiercest detractors, and alleges that Mr. Modi is a polarizing political figure who failed to stop communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 in which more than 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims.
A Supreme Court inquiry has cleared Mr. Modi of allegations of collusion in the violence; a Gujarat court has upheld that finding.
In March, a Congress leader in Uttar Pradesh, Imran Masood, was arrested for a hate speech in which he threatened to “chop Mr. Modi into pieces.”
Earlier this week, the Election Commission banned rallies and public meetings for Mr. Modi’s top aide, Amit Shah, and a Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, ruling that both leaders had delivered speeches designed to incite communal hatred.
Mr. Shah was allowed to return to campaigning late last week after he accepted his mistake, the Election Commission said. Mr. Khan, a senior minister in the Uttar Pradesh government, has said he will not apologize because he has “not committed any mistake” and has said he will make his case in court.