Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu has warned the Muslim community that efforts were on to divide their votes in Bihar. Alleging that Asaduddin Owaisi's party AIMIM was fielded to split Muslim votes, he appealed to the community to remain united to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the national election.
"I will like to warn you Muslim brothers, they are dividing you by bringing people like Owaisi. They are raising a new party here, they want to divide and win," Mr Sidhu said in an election rally in Katihar.
"If you people remain united, you have 65 per cent population here, here minority is majority, then everything will be overturned, it could lead to Modi's loss," he added.
Mr Owaisi, whose party has fielded a candidate in Kishanganj, was quick to respond. In his counterattack, he invoked Mr Sidhu's long association with the BJP.
"Who are you trying to unite when you were in BJP for so long? The party is indeed new for him, but Seemanchal's backwardness is old. We will get rid of it," he said.
Mr Owaisi attacked the Congress, alleging it was resorting to create fear psychosis in Muslims.
"Congress is still campaigning on an old program of "Fear of BJP". The fear has gone, now justice is needed. Their leadership is so spineless that they couldn't get Sidhu to pause for Azaan (a call for prayer), what could be expected of them?" he added.
#WATCH Bihar:N Sidhu says in Katihar 'Main aapko chetavni dene aya hun Muslim bhaiyon,ye baant rahe hain apko,ye yahan Owaisi jaise logon ko la ke,ek nai party khadi kar aap logon ka vote baant ke jitna chahte hain.Agar tum log ikathe hue,ekjut hoke vote dala to Modi sulat jaega' pic.twitter.com/PQlIjm4oW2— ANI (@ANI) April 16, 2019
The Congress is contesting the national election in Bihar in alliance with Lalu Yadav's RJD to stop the division of the anti-BJP votes. The RJD is contesting 19 seats, Congress nine and Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) of Upendra Kushwaha--who quit the BJP-led alliance in December-- is contesting five.
Bihar has a sizeable Muslim population of around 16-18 per cent. But in Kishanganj, the population is over 40 per cent.
Mr Sidhu, who had switched over from the BJP to the Congress before the 2017 Punjab assembly election, has an uneasy relationship with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. There were reports that he had stayed away from the national election campaign after his wife was denied a ticket in Punjab. He, however, joined the campaign later.
A similar remark has landed Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati in trouble. For her comment in which she had asked the Muslim community not to divide their votes, earned her a poll body notice, and later a 48-hour ban on campaigning.
With inputs from ANI