Narendra Modi increases his anti-Muslim rhetoric in the Indian election campaign

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has increased his divisive rhetoric on the campaign trail, using some of the most extreme rhetoric of his decade in power to attack opponents and mobilize Hindu voters as his party seeks a historic third term.

In a series of rallies since India's general elections began on April 19, Modi has referred to the country's Muslim minority as “infiltrators,” likened the Indian National Congress, his BJP's archrival, to the historic pro-Pakistan Muslim League, and accused the Congress of By seeking to “plunder” the wealth of Hindus and redistribute it to Muslims.

“Congress wants to take away part of the rights [lower-caste Hindus] “They are handing it over to their vote bank,” Modi told an election rally in Goa on Saturday. He added: “And you know who is the preferred vote bank for Congress,” in a veiled reference to Muslims.

On the same day, Anurag Thakur, the BJP's information minister, told another rally that Congress “wants to give your children's property to Muslims.”

Modi's escalation of his inflammatory rhetoric comes as the Bharatiya Janata Party looks to rally support among Hindus – who make up about 80 percent of the population – to win an overwhelming majority and consolidate its dominance of national politics.

The BJP has set a target of taking 370 of the 543 parliamentary seats on offer, up from the 303 seats it won in 2019. The results will be published on June 4 after six weeks of tiered voting.

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But analysts, who view the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party as the favorite, said that target would be difficult, pointing to evidence of low turnout during the first two rounds of voting and signs of anti-incumbency sentiment in parts of the ruling party's northern heartland.

“I don’t think I have ever seen a prime minister give such inflammatory rhetoric,” said Asim Ali, an independent political analyst, adding that Modi was trying to “revitalize Hindutva.” [Hindu nationalist] a base”.

“Because the Prime Minister is saying this now, BJP activists at the local level are free to take it up.”

The divisive shift has angered Modi's critics, who have filed complaints with the Election Commission of India over alleged violations of its code of conduct. The body last week sent a notice to the BJP but did not mention Modi's name or take any action.

At a combat rally of thousands of his supporters on Thursday in Agra – home to the Taj Mahal monument built by a Mughal Muslim emperor – Modi accused Congress, which ruled for decades after independence in 1947, of appeasing religious minorities.

“The policy of appeasement has divided the country into parts,” Modi said, alleging that opposition parties are trying to “steal” Hindus. Muslims constitute about 14 percent of India's population.

The Congress denies the allegations, and in turn accuses the business-friendly BJP of funneling government money to billionaires while neglecting unemployment and inequality. She pledged to conduct a census of caste groups, which she says will help allocate resources to marginalized groups.

Rahul Gandhi, Congress leader and Modi's most prominent rival, said on Friday that Modi appeared “very nervous.”

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“Narendra Modi has snatched money from the poor… [and] “I gave it to billionaires,” Gandhi said. “We will give this money to the poor in India.”

India has strict rules prohibiting the publication of exit polls during elections, so there is no confirmed information about where each party stands.

But analysts have questioned whether the Bharatiya Janata Party – which swept much of India in 2019 – can significantly improve its seat tally.

Reaching 370 seats seems “a bit puzzling, as to where the additional seats are going to come from,” said Ronojoy Sen, a professor of political science at the National University of Singapore, adding that the goal may have been to motivate party cadres. .

In Agra, Hindu and Muslim voters alike felt weary of the inflammatory content of the election campaign. Ridwan Ahmed, 18, said there was “no such problem” between religions, but “politicians just say things and then people distort the statements.”

“This kind of polarization and sectarian rhetoric will, of course, appeal to primary voters,” Sen said. “But I'm not sure how well it expands the nucleus.”

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