Controversial BJP MP Sakshi Maharah, in an interview on Saturday, indirectly blamed Muslims for the population boom. In light of the condemnation that soon followed, the saffron party leader later said he had been misquoted in the interview.
Attending an event organised to inaugurate a temple at Meerut in Uttar Pradesh, he told CNN-News18: "Population is increased by those who support the concept of four wives and 40 children." The indication was towards Muslims, because Islam allows a man to take four wives.
The words seemed especially disjointed because they were coming from a man who had claimed he was a true Muslim, and that Islam's top prophet was a Hindu. He had said in mid-2015: "In Islam, the biggest name is that of Mohammed and I think Mohammed saab is a great yogi. I think that a Muslim is one with 'iman', thus a Mussalman. I am a true Muslim."
Sakshi Maharaj's statement may cost the BJP especially dear, what with the Model Code of Conduct in effect in Uttar Pradesh ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections? The problems may also arise because the Supreme Court has recently delivered a verdict saying no political party may seek vote on the basis of religion.
Facing backlash over the comments, he was quick to clarify on Saturday: "I have not commented on any community. I have been misquoted and ready to face Election Commission."
The damage, however, seemed to have been done. Congress leader KC Mittal told ANI: "Sakshi Maharaj's speech based on caste and religion is very offensive. It is a violation of the Model Code of Conduct and the recent SC judgment."
Meanwhile, UP Congress leader Akhilesh Singh was quoted by CNN-News18 as saying: "The BJP leader's communal remarks are a trick to divert attention from promises made by PM Modi. He should be dismissed from Parliament and the BJP should expel him from the party."