India will have "a fairly bullying government" and attacks on the freedom of expression could worsen if the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) comes to power, India-born author Salman Rushdie has said.

"I am pretty concerned about a (Narendra) Modi-run government. The indications that it would be a fairly bullying government are already there," the controversial author and winner of the Booker Prize told local news agency, PTI.

Rushdie was speaking at a session on the importance of freedom of expression at the 10th annual PEN World Voices Festival in New York.

"We have already seen journalists and writers being bullied and (the BJP) has not taken power yet," he said.

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Rushdie, quoted by PTI, said people worry that they were going to be bullied and therefore try not to do anything that will attract the wrath of the 'Modistas'.

Rushdie, in his address at the festival also termed Modi as a "highly divisive figure" and a "hardliner's hardliner".

He voiced concern that the attacks on freedom of expression and literary works could worsen in an India run by the BJP.

Opinion polls, so far, show the BJP in the lead to win the parliamentary elections.

Rushdie cited the examples of the banning of Wendy Doniger's book on Hindus and artist MF Husain's exile from India for his work. He said the authorities had "failed lamentably" in their duty to protect free speech rights.

"India is in the danger of betraying the legacy of its founding fathers and greatest artists like Rabindranath Tagore," he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies