Anger as Modi rails against Muslim ‘infiltrators’ with ‘lots of children’

Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, waves at supporters at an election rally in Bengaluru
Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, waves at supporters at an election rally in Bengaluru - Navesh Chitrakar/REUTERS

India’s main opposition Congress party filed a complaint on Monday accusing Narendra Modi, the country’s Hindu nationalist prime minister, of “blatantly targeting” minority Muslims in a campaign speech.

At a weekend election rally in Rajasthan, Mr Modi claimed a previous Congress government had said that “Muslims have the first right over the nation’s wealth”.

He said if Congress won “it will be distributed among those who have more children. It will be distributed to the infiltrators”.

He added: “Do you think your hard-earned money should be given to infiltrators? Would you accept this?”

Critics said the phrases were references to Muslims.

The world’s most populous country is constitutionally secular and its election code bans canvassing based on “communal feelings”.

Mr Modi’s muscular Hindu-first politics is a key part of his electoral appeal and his opponents accuse him of marginalising India’s 200 million Muslim population.

The Indian prime minister usually steers away from explicit references to religion – the word Hindu does not appear in his Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) 76-page election manifesto.

In its complaint to the election commission, the Congress party said the “divisive, objectionable and malicious” comments were targeted at “a particular religious community” and amounted to “blatant and direct violations of electoral laws”.

They were “far worse than any ever made by a sitting prime minister in the history of India”, the complaint said.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the Congress party spokesman, told reporters: “We hope concrete action will be taken.”

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, spokesman for India's opposition Congress party
Abhishek Manu Singhvi of the Congress party wants to see 'concrete action' against Modi's remarks - Qamar Sibtain/India Today Group/Getty Images

Mr Modi and the BJP are widely expected to coast to victory in India’s marathon elections, which began last Friday and with the results due on June 4.

Earlier this year, Mr Modi presided over the inauguration of a grand temple to the deity Ram, built on the site of a centuries-old mosque razed by Hindu zealots.

The BJP has frequently invoked the temple on the campaign trail. Gaurav Bhatia, the BJP spokesman, told reporters on Monday that Mr Modi was calling “a spade a spade” and his remarks resonated with what people thought.