After VHP leader Pravin Togadia's anti-Muslim remarks sparked off a storm, BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi broke his silence disapproving "irresponsible" and "petty" comments.
Without naming anyone, Modi appealed to "those making them" to refrain from doing so. In a series of three tweets on Tuesday morning, he reinforced the message that he wanted the political discourse to focus on development and governance and not on Hindutva.
"Petty statements by those claiming to be BJP's well-wishers are deviating campaign from the issues of development & good governance," Modi said. "I disapprove any such irresponsible statement & appeal to those making them to kindly refrain from doing so."
He also tweeted "with great happiness, the entire nation is looking towards BJP for going to people solely on the issues of good governance and development."
Togadia's comments half-way through the election and that too in Gujarat had sparked off a storm on Monday with the Congress questioning Modi's "silence" as the BJP tried to distance itself from them. A case was filed against Togadia in the state. The Election Commission is examining video footage of his alleged "hate speech".
Modi's relations with Togadia are known to be been strained over the past several years.
Though Modi did not directly reprimand his party candidate Giriraj Singh for his comments that anti-Modi people should be sent off to Pakistan, the Bihar leader said he will respond in a court if the need arises. BJP sources said Modi's comments were aimed at all such comments to caution against shifting the discourse. The party wants to put an end to the debate over such remarks, they said.
However, the Congress cashed in on the controversy demanding that Modi take action against Togadia and his close aide Amit Shah.
"He (Modi) has to prove his bona fides by expelling Amit Shah and Pravin Togadia from the BJP and its sister organisations," Congress' Randeep Surjewala told reporters.
The party released video clips of alleged "hate speeches" of several BJP, Sangh Parivar and Shiv Sena leaders and demanded their arrest for "stoking the communal fire".