The Begusarai district administration in Bihar on Thursday booked Union minister and BJP leader Giriraj Singh for violating the Model Code of Conduct with a comment against Muslims a day before, ANI reported. Singh purportedly criticised candidates who refused to chant Vande Mataram.

“Those who cannot say Vande Mataram or cannot respect the motherland, the nation will never forgive them,” Singh allegedly said on Wednesday. “My ancestors died at the Simaria ghat and no grave was built for them but you [Muslims] need three hand spans of space.” He made the controversial comment during a rally at the GD College, in the presence of Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah.

Singh’s comments were an apparent jibe at the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Dharbhanga candidate Abdul Bari Siddiqui, who reportedly refused to say “Vande Mataram”. Singh is the BJP’s Lok Sabha poll candidate in Begusarai.

Begusarai District Magistrate Rahul Kumar took suo motu cognisance of Singh’s comments and lodged a first information report at the town police station against him for “hurting religious sentiments”, The Indian Express reported.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to have echoed Singh’s comments in Bihar’s Dharbhanga district on Thursday, NDTV reported. “Chanting Vande Mataram is like a life force,” Modi had claimed. “Doing this is also a responsibility to ensure the peace, prosperity and security of the country. But some people [election candidates] have a problem with this. They should have their deposits forfeited.”

Modi was addressing a rally along with BJP allies Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Lok Janshakti Party Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

On Tuesday, Singh had demanded that the Election Commission ban the colour green in political party flags while claiming that they resembled Pakistan’s flag.

Reactions to Giriraj Singh’s comments

Opposition parties criticised Singh’s comments. Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee spokesperson Harkhu Jha said Singh’s comments revealed his “distorted mentality” aimed at dividing voters on the basis of religion, Hindustan Times had reported. “He wanted to link religion with politics,” Jha had said. “The Election Commission must take note of it and act against him.”

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav on Wednesday claimed that Singh’s comments on the colour green was an insult to the national flag, ANI reported. “One ideology cannot be forcefully imposed on everyone,” Yadav had said.

Rashtriya Janata Dal spokesperson Manoj Jha had said the BJP leader should be renamed Vishraj Singh (venom king Singh) and asked how the national tricolour will look without green.

Lok Janshakti Party leader Chirag Paswan had said his party did not support use of such language.

The Janata Dal United’s Bihar spokesperson Neeraj Kumar had said that Singh made the comment in his capacity as an individual. “JD(U)’s flag is also predominantly green, which denotes environment and prosperity,” Kumar had said. Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) is currently in power in Bihar.

Bihar’s Chief Electoral Officer HR Srinivas had said the poll body had not received any complaint against Singh yet. “We will see if any such demand is formally made to the ECI,” Srinivas had told Hindustan Times.