NEW DELHI – Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi on Tuesday sought to calm fears about the future of religious minorities under his rule, saying his government would represent all Indians whether they voted for him or not in an ongoing general election.
Modi, prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and favourite to become India’s next leader, is running on a platform of reviving an economy going through its worst slowdown since the 1980s. But half way through a five-week campaign to win over the country's 815 million voters, some members of the BJP and its affiliates are facing accusations of trying to whip up a partisan agenda.
Their statements have re-ignited concerns among religious minorities about a BJP government, which rivals say has a deep-seated bias against India’s 150 million Muslims. “This government belongs to those who have voted for it; this government belongs to those who have voted against it; this government belongs even to those who could not cast their ballot,” Modi told the ABP News television channel.
“And the mantra of my government is absence of fear.” The comments came after Giriraj Singh, a leader of the Bihar state wing of the party, said those opposed to Modi would have to leave India and go to Pakistan after the BJP won the election and formed a government. Modi said nobody could agree with Singh’s comments.
Modi said he would reach out to Muslim brothers like any other citizen of India and made it clear that the contentious issues of Ram temple and Uniform Civil Code would be addressed within the constitutional framework. He said that he sees all Indians as one and it was his responsibility to reach out to all sections of the society, which includes Muslims.
“Let me tell you, I have to run the government. A government runs according to the Constitution. I believe that a government has only one religion — India first. A government has only one holy book — our constitution. A government has only one kind of devotion — towards nation. A government has only one style of functioning — cooperation of all, development of all,” he said.