Indian Express

Will chop Modi to pieces if he does a Gujarat here, says Cong candidate in divided Saharanpur

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Congress’s Imran Masood campaigns in Saiyed Mazar village in Saharanpur on Friday. Congress’s Imran Masood campaigns in Saiyed Mazar village in Saharanpur on Friday.

This is no ordinary election. It is an election of qayadat (leadership), wajood (identity) and waqar (self respect),” says Imran Masood, his voice hoarse, as he balances himself on the roof of a white Scorpio in village Harora, about 12 km out of Saharanpur town. The one-time MLA and nagarpalika chairman is the Congress candidate for this Lok Sabha election who has just hit the headlines because of his alleged hate speech against Narendra Modi.

He has been caught on tape purportedly telling an election meeting that Modi would have been “chopped in tiny pieces” if he dared to do a Gujarat (riots) in Uttar Pradesh. In a video, Masood appears to be saying, in the context of the Gujarat riots, that only 4 per cent of Gujarat’s population was Muslim while here (in Saharanpur) Muslims were 42 per cent and they would teach Modi a lesson (“hum ladenge jo thhok ke jawab dena jaane”), and “boti kaat denge chhoti chhoti” (chop him into tiny pieces).

Masood wears the new notoriety casually, with pride even. “It is an old CD, from at least six months ago”, he claims, speaking to The Indian Express as he now faces an FIR and questions from the Election Commission. “I had said ‘kutti kat dena’ which in these parts means to teach a lesson…It was a wrong choice of words, I agree.” And then, aggressively again: “But will Modi say sorry for Gujarat? Only then will I apologise”. 

It has always been a personalised election in Saharanpur, where Imran’s uncle, Rasheed Masood, won the Lok Sabha seat as many as five times — he is currently in jail after being indicted by a CBI court for his involvement in a medical admission scam while he was a health minister in the V.P. Singh government.

The Masood family is seen to have a powerful hold on the substantial “Muslim vote”, about 41.5 per cent of the total electorate in Saharanpur, regardless of the party Rasheed Masood happens to be in.

But, many say, seldom has an election been as vicious and polarised as this one in Saharanpur. Rasheed Masood was careful to project a secular image and made it work for him too. In a political barter of sorts, he supported non-Muslim leaders for the Assembly polls in exchange for their and their community’s support for him for the parliamentary elections.

It meant that even as Rasheed Masood virtually monopolised Saharanpur’s Lok Sabha seat, non-Muslim MLAs were elected from its five general assembly seats over the last three decades — with only four exceptions.

This time, however, Modi’s candidature for PM has dramatically altered the structure and tenor of the contest. It has put the BJP “in the fight” in Saharanpur, like in many of the seats in Western UP, after years on the sidelines. The last time continued…

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