The alleged "exodus" of Hindus from Uttar Pradesh's Kairana before 2017 - a claim debunked by the opposition and the BJP's own - took centre-stage as Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday launched a door-to-door election campaign in the state's west.
Visuals showed few - including the senior BJP leader - wearing masks, maintaining social distancing or following the Election Commission's 5-person limit on door-to-door campaigning given the surging coronavirus third wave.
With slogans of 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' raised by his entourage, Mr Shah was seen handing out pamphlets listing the achievements of the BJP government and greeting supporters and children.
It was the first political programme by Mr Shah in Uttar Pradesh after the assembly poll dates were announced and the choice of Kairana was seen as significant given how BJP leaders had alleged that a large number of Hindus were forced to migrate from the area due to threats during the Samajwadi Party rule, making it a big poll issue in 2017.
In the recent election rallies, the subject has made a comeback courtesy of the party's top leaders who claimed there has been an improvement in law and order in the state under the Yogi Adityanath government.
The issue, however, has had communal overtones and was seen as a polarising factor in the last polls. The then BJP lawmaker from the area, Hukum Singh, who had first made the exodus claim, had retracted the statements in an interview to NDTV in 2016.
Mr Shah paid a visit to families whose members were allegedly forced to migrate during the Samajwadi Party rule. Security personnel had a difficult time as crowds jostled to see the BJP leader.
The residents of the area spoke about security being the most important issue for them and some showered flower petals on the BJP leader and chanted 'Modi-Modi'.
The BJP has fielded Mriganka Singh, eldest daughter of late Hukum Singh who had won the seat several times, from Kairana against the RLD-Samajwadi Party candidate Iqra Hasan.
Iqra Hasan was fielded after political adversaries attacked the Samajwadi Party for giving a ticket to tainted sitting party MLA Nahid Hassan who was arrested on January 15 after filing his nomination
Elections to the 403-member Uttar Pradesh assembly will be held in seven phases starting from February 10. Votes will be counted on March 10.
(With inputs from PTI)