Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accused a former Prime Minister, retired Army chief, and a host of worthies of the Indian establishment of treason. These were not off the cuff remarks, as PM Modi is always very deliberate in what he says.

You people must have read the newspaper about the incident at Mani Shankar Aiyar's house. It was an issue of hot debate in newspapers and media yesterday that a meeting between former Pakistan high commissioner, former minister of external affairs of Pakistan, former vice president Hamid Ansari and former PM Manmohan Singh was held at Mani Shankar Aiyar's house. The meeting had run for three hours and the next day he called me "Neech" (low-born).”

"This is an issue of serious concern that when Pakistan has become a sensitive issue for the country then what was the reason to hold a secret meeting with Pakistan when the polls are being held in Gujarat. Former director general of Pakistan armyArshad Rafiq has insisted that Ahmed Patel should be made CM of Gujarat. Former army director general intervenes in Gujarat election. They held meeting with Pakistanis at Mani Shankar's house and on the very next day of that meeting, Gujarat, backward community of Gujarat, Modi and poor people of Gujarat were insulted. Is it not an issue of concern for the country? Congress must answer what suspicious activities they are doing. They must answer the country.”

Besides the remarks are now being vigorously defended by Minister Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad, in a clear indication that the PM is having no second thoughts.

Of course politically the PM might have achieved what he set out to, confusion and a discussion on the issue of Pakistan and Muslims and the Congress party. The charges are trending all over the social media, as are the counters by Manmohan Singh, former Army chief and others who were at the vexed dinner . And perhaps, as now only the election results will tell, PM Modi might even have managed to infuse some elements of doubt about the Congress and its supposed proximity to Pakistan and Muslims (Hamid Ansari and Ahmad Patel were mentioned by the PM) in some sections going to vote tomorrow in the second and last phase of the Gujarat polls. Although, several young Gujratis have been quoted in the media asking why the PM did not take action for such a serious crime of treason, if he was so sure of his facts. And why did he wait to make such serious charges at an election rally. He should have stopped this in Delhi, after all he is the Prime Minister of India.

He is. And that is why these comments damage the institutions of India, including that of the Prime Minister itself being dragged into a mire of sad controversy through an election meeting. As was that of the vice president, the Army chief, and indeed the government of India given the guest list. It was probably intended as a pay back for Aiyar and his ‘neech’ comment, but given the guest list it has embroiled the who’s who of Delhi---many of them on the regular guest lists of the PM and President of India---into the murky world of treason and deceit. With a few pointed and yet seemingly casual remarks made on a national, indeed given the world interest in the Gujarat polls, international platform of an election rally in Gujarat.

That the PM is in no mood to retract is made clear by the continuing attack by Jaitley. PM Modi has shifted what is usual sparring in an election to a new level with charges that are extremely serious. That these were raised at an election rally, and not made the subject of a thorough investigation, makes it worse as it condemns without proof, and damages the credibility of those who have governed India in the past. It also flags the question of truth and accountability. If a lie it brings the office of the Prime Minister of India into deep disrepute with the Army, Parliament, police, bureaucracy, intelligence agencies and indeed the diplomatic community. Coming from the PM these can in no way be dismissed as frivolous comments and need to be acted upon. Either by an enquiry that could end up making a mockery of democracy, or by an apology that would reveal perhaps more than it will hide.