New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday pulled up five BJP leaders whose comments on beef have embarrassed the party and told them to stop making controversial remarks.
The stern message was conveyed by Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah in separate meetings he held at the party office here with the five, including Haryana Chief Minister ML Khattar.
Others who faced Modi’s wrath were ministers Mahesh Sharma and Sanjeev Baliyan, MP Sakshi Maharaj and Uttar Pradesh legislator Sangeet Som.
According to informed sources, Shah told them all that Modi was “upset” with the kind of remarks they have made related to beef consumption in the wake of last month’s murder of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh.
The man, Mohammad Akhlaq, 50, was dragged out of his house in Dadri area near Delhi and lynched by a mob following rumours that he killed a cow and ate beef. His son was also seriously injured.
As the killing ignited widespread condemnation, some BJP leaders made comments that appeared to justify the gory murder.
After meeting Shah, Som merely told reporters: “We were called by the BJP president and discussions were held on party matters.”
Haryana Chief Minister Khattar stoked more embarrassment by telling a newspaper that Muslims had to give up eating beef if they wanted to be in India.
After all round criticism, Khattar expressed qualified regrets.
The hardline views over beef and Muslims have come at a time when Modi has been trying to woo voters in the ongoing Bihar assembly elections on a platform of development and oneness.
The BJP was on Tuesday set to return to power in its southern bastion Karnataka as its candidates crossed the half-way mark in vote count, stunning and ousting the ruling Congress and leaving the JD-S at the third spot.
Noisy celebrations broke out in party offices in Bengaluru, New Delhi and across Karnataka as Bharatiya Janata Party nominees were on the victory lap in 118 of the 222 constituencies which voted on Saturday.
This was a dramatic jump from the 40 seats the BJP won five years ago.
The Congress, desperate to retain power in the state amid shrinking appeal nationally, suffered major blows and was ahead only in 62 seats, with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah trailing in both the constituencies he contested: Badami and Chamundeshwari.
The Congress leader was way behind G.T Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal-Secular in Chamundeshwari, Election Commission officials said. And after leading initially, Siddaramaiah fell behind B.R. Sriramulu of the BJP in Badami.
In contrast, the BJP’s Chief Ministerial face B.S. Yeddyurappa was ahead of his Congress rival by more than 11,000 votes in Shikaripura.
Energy Minister and Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar said that the numbers indicated that his party was on the way out after five years in power.
Any party or grouping will need 113 of the total 224 seats to secure a majority in the Assembly. Polling did not take place in two constituencies on Saturday.
The BJP was overjoyed. “We are in a jubilant mood because we have crossed the half-way mark. We are confident of winning,” spokesman S. Shantharam told IANS.
BJP activists and leaders celebrated noisily in both Bengaluru and New Delhi, waving party flags and shouting slogans hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their main vote-getter, and party President Amit Shah.
There were also celebrations outside the residence of Yeddyurappa, who has been Chief Minister earlier too.
The Janata Dal-Secular of former Prime Minister H.D. Dewe Gowda, which has been expected to play the role of a kingmaker in the event of a hung Assembly, was leading in 40 seats — the same number it won five years ago.
As the vote count progressed, BJP leaders became assertive, saying they were confident of taking power again in Karnataka while Congress leaders began to speak about the possibility of an alliance with the JD-S.
BJP leader and Union Minister Sadanand Gowda said that there was no question of any alliance.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar, who is in charge of Karnataka, met BJP President Amit Shah in New Delhi.
Analysts said the BJP was leading in Lingayat dominated seats and the JD-S in Vokkaliga dominated areas.
Expectations of a BJP victory in Karnataka lifted the key Indian equity indices during the mid-morning trade session on Tuesday.