Sonia Gandhi, the leader of India's ruling Congress party, has issued a rare direct appeal to the nation not to return an opposition she said was motivated by "hatred and falsehood" in the country's general election.
The three-minute TV address was aired at prime time on Hindi-language channels just as an opinion poll showed for the first time that an alliance led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could win an outright majority, reported Reuters news agency.
"Their vision, clouded with hatred and falsehood, their ideology, divisive and autocratic, will drive us to ...ruination," Gandhi said in the clip broadcast on Monday night.
"It is this, the very heart and soul of India, that we are fighting to protect in this election, from those who seek to change it, and to divide us," said Gandhi. "They want to impose uniformity. They say: 'Just believe in me.'"
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The BJP dismissed the address as "a farewell speech given in desperation", driving home an advantage it has reaped from recent accounts by former government insiders that Sonia Gandhi had kept Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a tight leash.
"She wants to give power to the people but did not give power to the prime minister," Prakash Javadekar, the BJP's national spokesman, told Reuters.
While Sonia Gandhi did not mention the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, by name, her comments clearly targeted his brand of Hindu nationalism that she believes poses a threat to social peace in India's diverse society of 1.2 billion, and at a BJP campaign focused on Modi that critics say smacks of a personality cult.