India’s opposition prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, has urged his fellow Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members and “well-wishers” to stop making hate speeches and provocative comments.
Modi’s reaction has come after two back-to-back speeches from party member Giriraj Singh who said, “Modi’s critics should go to Pakistan”, followed by the Hindu right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Praveen Togadia’s remarks, in which he exhorted supporters to bar Muslims from acquiring properties in Hindu-majority areas.
“I disapprove any such irresponsible statement & appeal to those making them to kindly refrain from doing so [sic],” Modi, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate said on Twitter on Tuesday.
“Petty statements by those claiming to be BJP’s well-wishers are deviating the campaign from the issues of development & good governance [sic],” he said.
Modi’s comments have, however, drawn criticism too.
“Good that Modi puts distance between himself and party/VHP hate-mongers. But isn’t ‘petty statements’ a bit mild?” asked senior Indian journalist Barkha Dutt on Twitter.
In a video that surfaced on Monday, Togadia insisted that Muslims be stopped from “buying Hindu properties” and that a Muslim family which had bought a home in one such area be forcibly evicted.
Togadia is a memeber of the VHP – part of the Sangh Parivar – an umbrella of Hindu right-wing organisation RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) that also includes the BJP.
Earlier on Monday, the BJP sought to distance itself from the VHP with its leader Meenakshi Lekhi saying “Togadia is not in the BJP”.
Same day when Modi was due to address his supporters in the western state of Maharashtra, the leader of Shiv Sena – another Hindu right-wing organisation and RSS member – Ramdas Kadam reportedly said “Narendra Modi will destroy Pakistan in six months”.
There are also reports of “hate pamphlets” being distributed in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, asking “Free India of three crore (30 million) Muslim infiltrators from Bangladesh” and “Free Kashmir of traitors.”
With parliamentary elections just half way through and Modi portrayed by many opinion polls to become the next prime minister of India, his party has been stung by a chain of “anti-minosrity” rants by leaders close to it.