When Giriraj Singh sees anything green, he sees red.
The controversial firebrand BJP leader, trying his hand for the first time from Begusarai, has urged the Election Commission to ban all sorts of green flags in his constituency because that reminds him of Pakistan and that gives him a whiff of Muslim organisations. Singh was last elected from the Nawada seat, but much to his chagrin, the BJP leadership moved him out from there.
It is another matter that the person challenging him, former JNU Students' Union president Kanhaiya Kumar, is the candidate of the CPI, a party with a red flag. Staying on the topic of flags and their colours, it's ironic that a third of the BJP's flag is green in colour. The BJP's ally and NDA partner Janata Dal (United)'s flag also has two green strips.
Kanhaiya calls his opponent a "visa minister for Pakistan" because of the Union minister's favourite pastime of threatening to dispatch anyone and everyone to Pakistan if he or she, in his view, is 'anti-national' or anti-Narendra Modi.
So allergic is Singh to the colour green that he requested the poll panel to ban green flags that he claims are associated with political and religious organisations linked with Muslims. "This (green flags) spreads hatred and creates the perception of being used in Pakistan," said Singh whose provocative statements aimed at several top Opposition politicians have invited condemnation.
When Congress president Rahul Gandhi went to file his nomination papers from Wayanad in Kerala, Singh was equally angry at the sight of the green flags of the Indian Union Muslim League, an ally of the Congress in Kerala, and said, "Congress flags were missing and only Pakistani flags were fluttering there."
Pakistan was his favourite topic in the 2014 Lok Sabha election too when Modi was the prime ministerial face of the BJP and Singh was contesting for a Lok Sabha seat for the first time. He had then said, "Those opposing Modi should be prepared to go to Pakistan after the election as they will have no place in India." The BJP had dissociated itself from this controversial statement and Bihar BJP leader Sushil Modi had tweeted, "The BJP doesn't approve of the irresponsible statement by Singh." At the time, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was also against Narendra Modi as he had broken off from the NDA.
However, no leader from the BJP or NDA has so far dissociated themselves from the "green" statement of Singh and his demand from the poll panel to ban this colour, even as all eyes from across the country are fixed on Begusarai going to vote on 29 April.
The constituency, once known as Leningrad of Bihar for an impressive presence of Communists, is in grip of a triangular contest between Singh, Kanhaiya and Tanveer Hasan of the RJD. The CPI was not accommodated in the grand alliance as the RJD leadership was dead against the candidature of the outspoken students' leader.
But support for Kanhaiya is trickling from various quarters. Film lyricist Javed Akhtar, who is camping in the constituency, retaliated against the charge of 'tukre-tukre gang' membership on Kanhaiya by saying "Dilon ke tukre tukre karne wale" (forces making hearts bleed) were against him.
Shabana Azmi too will address rallies in favour of Kanhaiya at Balia and Barauni on Thursday. Film actors Swara Bhaskar, Prakash Raj, civil rights activist Teesta Setalwad, former JNUSU president Shehla Rashid, Gujarat Congress MLA Jignesh Mewani and missing JNU student Najeeb Ahmad's mother Fatima Nafees were among others who campaigned for and blessed Kanhaiya who is from Begusarai.
The fierce clash between Kanhaiya, who is on bail, and Singh, who is facing half a dozen cases including those relating to land-grabbing, has made this electoral battle highly sensitive and interesting simply because Singh is a prominent extreme Hindutva face and Kumar faces sedition charges and has raised his voice against Hindu nationalism and the prime minister.
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Updated Date: Apr 25, 2019 13:12:50 IST