Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh - India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has attacked the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at an election rally, warning that the latter's coming to power would be detrimental to India's "secular personality".
"Look at their manifesto. There is nothing new in it. The BJP is harping on the same old sectarian ideas, article 370 and temple-mosque issues," Singh said on Saturday in the border town of Palia in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
"BJP's ideology is detrimental to India's secular personality," he said.
Look at their (BJP's) manifesto. There is nothing new in it. The BJP is harping on the same old sectarian ideas, article 370 and temple-mosque issues
Singh, who has been heading the United Progressive Alliance government led by the Congress party for the past one decade, has been missing from the election campaign for the 2014 parliamentary polls.
Addressing potential voters in the Sikh and Muslim-dominated belt of Palia in Lakhimpur-Kheri constituency, Singh backed the sitting parliament member Zafar Ali Naqvi's candidacy in the April 17 polls.
"The kind of development that took place in entire India wasn't a case in any previous decade. So we (Congress) should be re-elected to continue the trend," he appealed voters in this remote region near the border with Nepal to shun communalism and sectarianism.
Singh, however, conceded that inflation in the country couldn't be tamed "but Congress in the last few years did work hard to bring it down".
He said the federal government had allocated several development-related funds for the locals, which he said was not utilised by the state government.
According to opinion polls, the ruling Congress party, blighted by a raft of corruption scandals and price rise, is most likely to lose the parliamentary elections.
Election front-runner Narendra Modi from the Hindu nationalist BJP has promised to end corruption and bring development.
This was the second speech of the Prime Minister, who kicked off his poll campaigning from Pilibhit - another town in the region - where the BJP has fielded senior leader Maneka Gandhi, disgruntled sister-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Earlier in the day, Mulayam Singh Yadav, the top leader of the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) in the state, appealed the election commission to revoke the ban on senior party leader Azam Khan accused of 'hate-speech' in riot-torn Muzaffarnagar district of the state.
"We will seek revocation of ban on our party leader Azam Khan," he told a gathering in the main market while targeting BJP's Amit Shah, who was also banned from holding rallies over alleged "hate-speech".
"He is a murderer," Yadav said about Shah, who is a close aide (of) Modi.
Appealing Muslims to choose his party in the upcoming polls, Yadav said, "Only SP is moved by the pain of Muslims who have made immense contribution in India's development. We will improve their lives if voted to power."
Mulayam Singh also pitched for free education, medicine and irrigation facilities for farmers "if his "party was voted" to power.