- PM Modi chanted Vande Mataram at a rally in Darbhanga, Bihar
- Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who was on the stage, stayed silent
- The video has become awkward for the members of the ruling alliance
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi chanted Vande Mataram at a rally in Bihar, pumping fists in the air, ally Nitish Kumar, who was on the stage, stayed silent. The video, which is in wide circulation on social media, is seen by many as a telling visual on the contradictions within the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
Another alliance partner on the stage, Ram Vilas Paswan, joined in the "Vande Mataram" chorus, but next to him, Nitish Kumar stayed resolutely silent. As everyone rose to their feet to join PM Modi in the chanting, Nitish Kumar was the last to stand up.
The video, taken at an NDA rally in Darbhanga on April 25, has become awkward for members of the ruling alliance.
Commenting on the video on Twitter, AIMIM leader and lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi questioned whether BJP supporters would call Nitish Kumar "anti-national".
Earlier in the rally, PM Modi had said: "Chanting Vande Mataram is like a life force. Doing this is also a responsibility to ensure the peace, prosperity and security of the country. But some people have a problem with this. They should have their deposits forfeited."
The PM's remarks came two days after the opposition candidate in Darbhanga, Abdul Bari Siddiqui, controversially told a TV channel that while he had no objections to chanting "Bharat Mata Ki Jai", reciting Vande Mataram was against his beliefs. "No one who believes in one God will not ever recite Vande Mataram," said Mr Siddiqui, who faces the BJP's Gopaljee Thakur in Darbhanga.
In a virulent response to the comment, Union Minister Giriraj Singh, the BJP candidate from Begusarai, said: "Those who don't say Vande Mataram can't worship the motherland. My father and grandfather died by the banks of the Ganga and did not need a grave. You on the other hand, need three-arm's-length of land. If you don't say Vande Mataram, the country will never forgive you."
The singing of Vande Mataram, the national song, has been a divisive debate that has been revived during the election campaign in which the ruling BJP's key themes have been nationalism and national security.
Many Muslims, on religious grounds, object to the singing of Vande Mataram being made mandatory as it goes against monotheism.
Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan, who have a substantial base among Muslim voters, have treaded cautiously on this subject, as they have on other aspects of the BJP's core ideology and agenda.
Reportedly under pressure to tweak his own party's beliefs for the sake of NDA unity, Nitish Kumar has yet to release the Janata Dal United manifesto even after four rounds of voting for the national election. The JDU's position is different from the BJP on three key points - Article 370, the Uniform Civil Code and the Ram temple in Ayodhya.