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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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Priyanka Gandhi Hits Back at PM’s “Hindu or Muslim” Remark

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “I never said Hindu or Muslim…” defence came under fire on Wednesday from Congresswoman Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who said, “This is exactly what he (Mr. Modi) has been doing for 10 years.” He has spoken speeches in front of the entire world, thus he cannot (yet) begin to retract them. How can he just turn around and claim that such statements were not made?”

Mrs. Gandhi Vadra charged that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which is perceived to be using religious concerns as a platform for elections, was engaging in a “politics of religion” while ferociously campaigning for Congress MP Rahul Gandhi in Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh, the party’s heartland.

A day earlier, Mr. Modi said that the focus of his address in Banswara, Rajasthan, last month—during which he made references to Muslims and described the Congress’s plans for an economic census as a ploy to “redistribute wealth to infiltrators”—was on impoverished families, not religion.

In that speech the Prime Minister referred to comments by his predecessor, Dr Manmohan Singh, and said, “… when Congress was in power, they said Muslims have first right on country’s assets… your mangalsutra (and gold) will be distributed to those who have more children… to infiltrators”.

A new and distinct controversy began when the PM described the Congress manifesto as a “imprint of the Muslim League” and said that “every page reeks of breaking India into pieces” in previous addresses.

The BJP submitted a complaint that Rahul Gandhi had made “derisive and obnoxious utterances” against the Prime Minister, which prompted the Congress to file one with the Election Commission on both grounds.

However, on Tuesday, speaking to a news broadcaster, Mr Modi professed dismay over the reception to these and other remarks, saying, “I am shocked. Who told you that whenever one talks of people with more children, the inference is they are Muslims? Why are you so unjust towards Muslims?”

“This is the situation in poor families too. I didn’t mention either Hindu or Muslim…”

The Prime Minister – whose party boss, JP Nadda, was issued a show cause notice after widespread criticism of his comments in Rajasthan – also made a dramatic “pledge”, declaring, “The day I start doing Hindu-Muslims, I won’t be entitled to live in the public domain. I won’t do Hindu-Muslim…”

Party managers were held responsible for leaders’ violations of the Model Code of Conduct during campaign speeches and events last month, marking a historic first. The EC stated that it was of the “considered view” that parties would have to accept main responsibility for the conduct of their candidates. The EC had come under fire after appearing to postpone acting on complaints against the Prime Minister and the BJP.

In the meantime, this week the Prime Minister submitted his nomination papers to keep his Lok Sabha seat in Varanasi. With the election taking place next week, Mr. Modi hopes to become the third MP to represent the UP temple town.

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