Modi’s Comment on Muslims Prompts Complaint to Election Body

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India’s main opposition party complained to the country’s election body after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made comments at rallies over the past two days which they say were religiously divisive.

Modi told supporters Sunday in Rajasthan that if voted to power, the Indian National Congress would redistribute wealth to minorities, like Muslims, and “infiltrators.”

“The Congress manifesto says they will calculate the gold with mothers and sisters, and then distribute that property,” Modi told the cheering crowd. “They will distribute it to whom?” he asked.

He went on to claim that Manmohan Singh — who was prime minister in a previous Congress-led government — had said “Muslims have first right on the country’s assets,” comments which opposition officials said distorted the facts.

Modi made similar comments at a rally Monday in Aligarh, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, saying the Congress party would redistribute people’s property, without naming any minority group. About 20% of Aligarh’s population is Muslim in a state where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dominates.

Abhishek Singhvi, a senior Congress leader, said Monday the party had registered its complaint with the Election Commission of India.

“There is clear mention of one religion and the allegation that the Congress party will give them all the country’s wealth and that the party is associated with infiltrators,” Singhvi told reporters Monday outside the commission’s offices in New Delhi. The party demanded action from the election body, saying its code of conduct for political parties had been violated.

The Election Commission didn’t immediately respond to the Congress’s demand. Earlier, the commission said it had no comment to make on the subject.

A BJP spokesman defended Modi’s comments. The prime minister’s remarks have “resonated with the people of the country,” Gaurav Bhatia, national spokesman of the party said at a briefing.

Modi is seeking a third term in office in elections that kicked off on April 19 and will run until June 1. He’s maintained his popularity with voters through a combination of economic measures to support the poor and Hindu nationalist policies that appeal to the vast majority of the population, 80% of who identify as Hindu.

Modi told supporters at Sunday’s rally that the Congress party would give away their hard-earned money to “infiltrators.” He referred to the opposition’s election manifesto released earlier this month, which promised that it would undertake a national survey to determine socio-economic inequalities and address it.

“Should your hard-earned money be given to infiltrators? Do you agree to that?,” Modi asked. “The Congress manifesto says that it will count the gold belonging to your mothers and sisters and then they will distribute it.”

(Updates with BJP spokesman’s comments in the ninth paragraph)

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