District authorities in Katihar have lodged an FIR against Punjab Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu for his remarks in which he allegedly warned the Muslim community that efforts were on to divide their votes in Bihar.
"An FIR has been lodged against Sidhu under a section Indian Penal Code and section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act," Bihar chief electoral officer H R Srinivasa told news agency PTI.
While addressing an election rally in Bihar's Katihar for Congress leader Tariq Anwar on Tuesday, Sidhu asked the Muslim voters of the region to vote in unison to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Do not consider yourself as being in a minority. You constitute the majority here. You are about 64 per cent. Do not fall into the trap laid down by people like Owaisi (president of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen). They have been propped up by the BJP," Sidhu had said on Monday at a rally held at Barasol, in Balrampur assembly segment falling under the Katihar Lok Sabha seat in Bihar.
Later, justifying his polarising speech, the Punjab minister told media that he was not trying to divide votes, but was only urging the Muslim voters to oust PM Modi.
"Was not trying to divide anyone. Was only saying that Muslims need to unite against PM Modi who doesn't have their best interests at heart. I have not received any notice from Election Commission," Sidhu said.
The Model Code of Conduct implemented by the Election Commission bars political leaders from making any communal comments during polls. However, polarising speeches, seeking votes on religious terms, have emerged significantly during the election campaigning for 2019 Lok Sabha polls, with top leaders like BSP supremo Mayawati. Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, SP leader Azam Khan and Union Minister Maneka Gandhi coming under the radar of the Election Commission.
(With PTI inputs)