New Delhi: BJP chief Amit Shah has in a controversial comment said that if his party loses in Bihar, "crackers will be burst in Pakistan."
Addressing a rally in Raxaul, a day after Bihar voted in the third of five phases in the assembly elections now being held, Mr Shah said, "If by any chance the BJP loses this election, while winning and losing will happen in this country, crackers will be burst in celebration in Pakistan. Would you want that to happen?"
"No," roared the crowd.
Rival parties have criticised Mr Shah's comment as an attempt at polarising voters. KC Tyagi of the ruling Janata Dal United said the party would complain to the Election Commission on Friday. "The BJP had started with campaigning with the talk about development. But as the BJP started trailing it has decided to totally communalise the campaign," Mr Tyagi told NDTV.
"This is the old practice of the BJP. They practiced it in Gujarat as well. They always wanted to play this communal card to win elections. Questioning the mandate of elections, they are dividing Bihar," alleged the Congress' Tom Vadakkan.
Amit Shah has, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fronted the BJP's campaign in the Bihar elections, with the party choosing not to project a chief ministerial candidate. The BJP is locked in a very close battle in the state with what is called the "Grand Alliance" made up of the Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's JDU and Lalu Yadav and the Congress.
Voting has been held for a little over half of Bihar's 243 seats in three phases. The last two phases will be held within the next week and votes will be counted on Sunday, November 8.
Winning Bihar is crucial for the BJP, which needs to boost its numbers in the Rajya Sabha or Upper House of Parliament, the members of which are elected by legislators in states. The Narendra Modi government is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha and has found it tough to push through key reforms.
The BJP, which had won a series of state elections after it came to power at the Centre last year, was crushed by the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi this year, the last assembly election it contested. It would like a win in Bihar also to set the tone for important state elections in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu next year and then the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections in 2017.