India’s Election Overheats!
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) waves during a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general elections political rally in Bangalore, India, 20 April 2024. EFE-EPA/JAGADEESH NV

India’s Election Overheats!


By Sarwar Kashani

New Delhi, Apr 22 (EFE).-

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had avoided his trademark campaign strategy of speaking against Indian Muslims, an increasingly marginalized group, during the ongoing general elections, until after the first phase of voting was over.

However, after the first of the seven phases of the election, Modi reverted to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJPS) strategy of branding Indian Muslims as “infiltrators” who purportedly pose a threat to Hindu prosperity should the opposition come to power.

Credited with mainstreaming Hindu nationalism in Indian politics like no other, the prime minister accused the opposition Indian National Congress (INC) of conspiring to redistribute India’s wealth among its approximately 200 million Muslims, the largest minority in the predominantly Hindu nation.

Modi cited a nearly two-decade-old speech by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to imply that the Congress intended to prioritize empowerment of minorities, particularly the Muslims.

“Earlier, when they were in power, they had said that the first right on the country’s wealth belongs to Muslims,” Modi said.

“What does this mean?” Modi asked at an election rally in the northwestern state of Rajasthan on Sunday, campaigning to secure a third successive term in office.

“By collecting this wealth, who will they distribute it to? They will distribute it to those who have more children, they will distribute it to infiltrators. Will the money earned from your hard work be given to infiltrators? Do you approve of this?” Modi thundered amid a loud cheer by a sea of his supporters.

He did not stop there and accused the Congress party of planning to get hold of “the gold of mothers and sisters, dig up their roots, gather information, and then distribute the wealth.”

“They won’t even spare your mangalsutra,” he said, referring to a pendant necklace, a sacred thread tied around a Hindu bride’s neck by her husband during the wedding ceremony, symbolizing their bond in matrimony.

The clip from Modi’s controversial election speech turned viral in no time, bringing brickbats and bouquets from his critics and supporters.

The Congress dubbed the prime minister’s remarks as “hate speech” and accused him of “spreading lies in the name of Hindu-Muslim” to win the election.

“The prime minister’s lies have gone very low after the disappointment of the first phase of polling and that’s why he is diverting attention from people’s issues,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, wrote on X.

Defending the controversial remarks, which have communally charged the election atmosphere in a country where minorities have often faced discrimination with anti-Muslim sentiments having heightened under Modi’s leadership, the BJP and its supporters said he had ended the politics of “divide and rule” and appeasement.

“There is a politics of development in India. We believe in inclusive growth,” the BJP wrote on X in the face of widespread criticism over Modi’s remarks.

“We decided to empower the marginalized and often neglected sections of society by bringing them into the mainstream.”

But Modi’s critics say the BJP may have sensed defeat in the first phase of voting on Apr. 19 and was now resorting to its tested model of doubling down on sparking fears that the Hindu majority was under threat from the Muslim minority in India to stoke Hindu-Muslim tensions and mobilize its base.

Activist-politician Yogendra Yadav told EFE that he was not surprised that the BJP, in its push to retain power, would do anything even to destroy the idea of a pluralistic and secular India.

Whatever Modi said in the election rally “is not the news,” Yadav said.

“The news is that the BJP supporters did not vote in the first phase of the elections. The news is that the BJP and the RSS (the party’s ideological parent) are scared and frustrated. The news is that the speech is a trailer. More is to come and happen in the coming weeks,” he said.

Modi’s 10 years of rule have been marked by a divisive campaign filled with anti-Muslim messaging and policies, including a law that allows for the fast-tracking of citizenship for Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, excluding Muslims.

The BJP, which faces formidable opposition in the southern and eastern regions, is rousing anti-Muslim sentiment in India’s electorally critical Hindi-speaking belt, comprising of 11 states in north and central India, which sends 225 or more than half of 543 members, to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament and India’s most influential political body.

Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh, in the heart of this region, also called the cow belt because the majority of the people living in this region are hardcore Hindus and consider the cow to be sacred, send 25, 29, and 80 members respectively to the Lok Sabha, making them critical for the BJP’s third term in office. EFE


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) is greeted by supporters during a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general elections political rally in Bangalore, India, 20 April 2024. EFE-EPA/JAGADEESH NV

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