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Masood's anti-Modi remarks: Can parties give up hate speech?

While the Congress has been campaigning against communal remarks made by BJP leaders, it's Saharanpur candidate Imraan Masood's comments against Narendra Modi has caused it a huge setback. Despite the situation, the Congress has only condemned the remarks and Rahul Gandhi is set to campaign for Masood today.

Imran Masood in a YouTube screen grab.

Imran Masood in a YouTube screen grab.

Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha during a debate on CNN-IBN defended Masood.

"Masood has apologised. This video tape was from when he was in Samajwadi Party. We condemn the incident. There is an investigation going on," he said.

Jha claimed that the BJP had far worse candidates.

"But the pertinent point is it is a highly polarised election. We have three MLAs booked for the Muzaffarnagar riots who have been given Lok Sabha tickets by the BJP," Jha said.

However, when asked if action will be taken against Masood, Jha said, "We will have to investigate the case. We will have to wait for the outcome. We do not run a kangaroo court party."

While the BJP may have the upper hand in this case, its leaders aren't unused to making controversial speeches and allegations like Varun Gandhi's controversial speech a few years back. The party defended itself by saying that its candidate hadn't been found guilty.

"The BJP categorically disassociated itself from Varun Gandhi's statement and court gave its order. Nothing has been proved in court against him," BJP leader Sudhanshu Trivedi said.

"There cannot be comparison on this. Masood has said enough to give rise to communal a frenzy," he claimed.

Trivedi also defended Modi's comments calling AK Antony a Pakistani agent saying it was said in a particular context.

"Congress leaders didn't have the time to visit those who were by beheaded by the Pakistani army," he said.

The BJP maintained that the Congress was attempting to polarise votes in order to win over Musim votes.

"These things cannot be controlled. When the Prime Minister of India says that Muslims should have first right over resources of India and Shinde uses words like Hindu terror. This is a consistent well thought out design of the Congress. They want to diverge the attention to communal polarisation to get votes," Trivedi said.

Hate speeches have been common during polls and it isn't like politicians to take advantage of it even when elections aren't on. All over India, leaders from different political parties including Raj Thackeray of the MNS and Akbaruddin Owaisi of AIMIM have used it to their advantage.

But is the justification that provacative statements, like the one made by Masood, were made in the Hindi heartland merely to move voters valid?

"Firstly, I condemn what Imran Masood has said. This only vitiates the atmosphere. Secondly, any debate between the BJP and the Congress turns into blame game. The point is if India is getting more civilised or violent?" journalist Shahid Siddiqui said.

"In the past these speeches were made and technology was not such that it could be exposed. Politicians have to understand that they cannot hoodwink people. They become secular only when they meet Muslims. They make other speeches when they meet Hindus. These kind of speeches don't go very far," Siddiqui said.

He pointed out that it may not yield long term dividends though.

"It may get you some dividend. By and large neither Muslims nor Hindus appreciate such language. Already there has been a huge riot in UP and they are laying ground for another riot," he said.

But can laws change the situation?

"This is not a recent problem...All their political bosses will say such things. This is going to continue," lawyer Shoeb Alam said

"We need to understand that it has to do with the polity. Tickets are distributed on the basis of religion base in the country. Socially the EC needs to come up with a campaign to sensitise people. Not just during polls, but through the year," Alam said.