Top Indian government leaders to keep fast, hold Dharna against opposition

Top Indian government leaders to keep fast, hold Dharna against opposition

DELHI - India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead a day-long fast on Thursday in a tit-for-tat protest against the opposition, whose leaders were caught feasting moments before they launched their own hunger strike. BJP Chief Amit Shah will hold sit in Dharna against opposition.

The rival protests are part of growing showdown between Modi’s ruling nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its arch-rival Congress party ahead of a looming national election.

Both sides have suffered social media ridicule over their fasts.

Congress organised a five-hour hunger strike on Monday in a pre-emptive move against a BJP plan for its fast on Thursday.

But the party was left red-faced after photos of senior leaders tucking into chickpea curry served with a savoury dough circulated on social media right before the fast.

Congress faced sarcastic comments on Twitter, while the BJP called their protest a "joke".

With Modi set to lead Thursday’s protest, the BJP has reportedly issued strict rules to its lawmakers, including a ban on eating at public places or being photographed noshing on treats before Thursday.

It is also shooing away street food vendors from the protest venue in New Delhi, according to the Mail Today daily.

Congress has called the BJP’s plans "a farce of a fast".

The BJP has said it will reject food for a day to show anger at the disruption of parliamentary business by Congress. Parliament sessions are regularly suspended amid unruly shouting matches.

Modi will fast to expose Congress’s "undemocratic style of functioning and pursuing divisive politics and anti-development agenda".

Modi, a strictly observant Hindu and teetotal vegetarian, routinely fasts every year for the Navratri festival -- a nine day ritual when he only takes liquids during daylight hours.

In a 2012 blog, Modi called his annual fast "an act of self-purification".