BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is garlanded by Asansole BJP candidate and Bollywood singer Babul Supriya. PHOTO: AFP
Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial front-runner in India’s mammoth general election, on Sunday reiterated his strong stance againstillegal immigrants, just days after a wave of sectarian killings in the north-eastern state of Assam.
India is in the home stretch of a five-week election in which Modi’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looks set to emerge as the biggest group and which has heightened ethnic and religious tensions in many parts of the country.
India deployed troops in Assam on Saturday after more than 30 Muslims were gunned downin three days of what police said were attacks by Bodo tribal militants, who resent the presence of settlers they claim are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Modi has repeatedly called for tighter immigration controls and recently said illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in the state of West Bengal should have their ‘bags packed’ in case he came to power, accusing the state government of being too soft.
At a rally on Sunday in West Bengal he accused the state government of looking to secure votes from ethnic and religious minorities.
“You are concerned about infiltrators and not your own people … they must go back, they are robbing the youths of India of their livelihood,” Modi told the rally in West Bengal, which borders Assam. Prime MinisterManmohan Singh has condemned the attacks in Assam and his ruling Congress party accused Modi of making divisive comments.
“Modi is a model of dividing India,” said Law Minister Kapil Sibal on Saturday. Critics have long accused the BJP of deep-seated prejudice against India’s Muslims, who make up more than 12 per cent of the country’s 1.2 billion population. The BJP says it only opposespreferential treatment for any community.
“This violence has a long history,” said BJP spokesperson MJ Akbar, referring to the Assam attacks. “This knee-jerk reaction of blaming Narendra Modi for everything is absurd.”
Bangladesh’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to request for comments on Modi’s latest speech.
The BJP leader also accused the Election Commission of being biased and failing to prevent booth rigging in West Bengal, Bihar and western Uttar Pradesh.
“Why are you not acting? What is your intention? If you feel wrong about what I am saying now, then you are free to lodge another case against me,” The Times of India quoted Modi as saying.
“It is your responsibility to ensure impartial polls. I am making very serious allegations,” he said accusing the Election Commission of having failed to take action.
Accusing the EC of being biased, he said, “I am putting serious allegations against you. You have failed to stop rigging and violence in these areas. False cases have been filed against our candidate Babul Supriyo. Election Commission’s work is to protect people. I request you to fulfill your responsibilities in the right way.”