One does not become a political leader by “crushing someone under a Fortuner [an SUV model]”, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Uttar Pradesh unit chief Swatantra Dev Singh said on Sunday, as he tried to distance the party from the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri district, ANI reported.

The BJP has been facing criticism because of the alleged involvement of Union Minister Ajay Mishra’s son, Ashish, in the violence. Eight people, including four farmers, were killed in the violence on October 3 during a protest against the Centre’s new agriculture laws.

Farmer bodies have alleged that a vehicle which was part of Ajay Mishra’s convoy ran over the protestors. They have claimed the vehicle belonged to Ashish Mishra.

The minister’s son was arrested on Saturday after being charged with multiple offences, including murder and criminal conspiracy.

Addressing party workers at an event in Lucknow on Sunday, BJP’s Uttar Pradesh chief urged the party’s workers to win over people with good conduct.

“One does not become a political leader by looting people or crushing someone under a Fortuner,” he said. “...When even 10 people in your locality praise you, my heart swells with pride.”

Singh asked the BJP workers to emulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“A tea seller, a person born into a poor family, went on to become the chief minister [of Gujarat] and the prime minister” Singh added. “He [Modi] has said said ‘na khaunga, na khaane doonga’ [I won’t accept bribes and won’t let anyone else take bribes either]”

Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh are due in about six months and the Opposition has stepped up its criticism of the state government’s response to the violence in Lakhimpur Kheri.

On Sunday, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accused the Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh government of shielding Ajay Mishra and his son.

At a rally in Varanasi, Vadra also criticised Modi for not meeting the grieving families in Lakhimpur Kheri.

“The prime minister could come to Lucknow [on Tuesday] to attend the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ [an event to mark 75 years of India’s Independence] but he could not travel to Lakhimpur Kheri, which is two hours away, to hold the hands of farmers and wipe their tears,” the Congress leader had said.