Modi accused of hate speech by opposition as India’s phased elections roll on

new delhi — India’s main opposition Congress Party has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “hate speech” following remarks at recent election rallies in which he said the rival party would favor the minority Muslim community if voted to power.

Modi’s controversial comments came amid hectic campaigning by political parties as India holds phased elections that began this month and continue until June 1.

Political analysts said the remarks by Modi, who is leading his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s bid to win a third term in power, are an effort to shore up support among his Hindu voter base.

The prime minister told a rally held in the northwestern state of Rajasthan on Sunday that if the opposition Congress Party is voted into power, it will gather “all your wealth and distribute it to those who have more children” and to “infiltrators.” The remarks were widely seen as a reference to Muslims.

Modi cited a two-decade old comment by former prime minister Manmohan Singh, from when the Congress Party led a coalition government, in which Singh had said that India’s lower castes, tribes, women and “in particular the Muslim community” deserved a share in the country’s development. Singh’s government had clarified that he was referring to all disadvantaged groups.

The remarks prompted an outcry from the Congress Party, which denied making any promise of taking away and redistributing wealth and said that the party’s manifesto only talks about equality and justice for all.

The party said the prime minister’s remarks were a “blatant and direct violation” of electoral laws, which ban canvassing on “caste” and “communal feelings.”

In a complaint to the Election Commission, the Congress Party called the comments “divisive and malicious” and said they were targeted at “a particular religious community.” It has petitioned the body that oversees India’s mammoth election, to act against Modi.

“What Modiji said was hate speech and also a well-thought-out ploy to divert attention,” Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said in a post on X.

Several other opposition parties, which accuse Modi’s BJP of polarizing voters for electoral gains, have also joined the chorus of protest against the prime minister’s remarks.

Modi continued his attack on the Congress Party at election rallies this week, saying they wanted to implement reservations based on religion. That remark was a reference to a decades-long affirmative action program under which India sets aside quotas in government jobs and educational institutes for lower castes.

The BJP has defended the prime minister’s remarks. Party spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia told reporters on Monday that he only “echoed the sentiment of every citizen of the country who believes in equality.”

On the campaign trail, Modi has sought votes largely on his pledge of making India a developed nation, expanding the economy and increasing welfare programs for the poor.

However, analysts say the prime minister’s comments represent a change in tactics as the party seeks to energize its cadres and voters from the Hindu majority community.

“It is communal politics and a concerted attempt to otherize minorities and Muslims in particular and instill a sense of insecurity among the majority Hindu community by pushing the opposition into the bracket of those who work for welfare of the minorities,” said political analyst Rasheed Kidwai. “And because the relationship between the majority Hindus and minority Muslims has a lot of historical baggage and there is a trust deficit, it is very easy to reap electoral dividends.”

In an editorial, the Indian Express newspaper called the prime minister’s speech “divisive that does grave disservice to his high office,” and said that Modi had framed “politics as a zero-sum game and communities as adversaries.”

The BJP’s Hindu nationalist agenda has won huge support for Modi and the party in the Hindu majority nation and opinion polls have predicted an easy victory for him.

During his 10 years in power. Modi has fulfilled some of the party’s Hindu-right agenda such as revoking Muslim majority Kashmir’s special status and enacting a citizenship law that grants nationality to Hindus and people of some other faiths fleeing neighboring countries but excludes Muslims.

Critics and opposition parties accuse Modi of undermining the country’s secular ethos and rights groups say that Muslims have been targeted during his decade-long rule. The BJP strongly denies the allegations. It points out that welfare programs such as free rations and aid to build houses and toilets include all communities and says that the government’s policies benefit all Indians equally.

your ad here

leave a reply: