New Delhi, Reuters—Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi sought to calm fears for religious minorities under his rule on Tuesday, saying he would represent all Indians whether they voted for him or not in the current general election.
Modi, prime ministerial candidate for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and favorite to become India’s next leader, is running on a platform of reviving an economy going through its worst slowdown since the 1980s.
But halfway through a five-week campaign to win over the country’s 815 million voters, some members of the BJP and its hardline affiliates are facing accusations of trying to whip up a partisan Hindu-oriented agenda.
Their statements have re-ignited concerns among religious minorities about a government led by the BJP, which rivals say has a deep-seated bias against India’s 150 million Muslims.
“This government belongs to those who have voted for it. This government belongs to those who have voted against it. This government belongs even to those who could not cast their ballot,” Modi told the ABP News television channel.
“And the mantra of my government is absence of fear.”
The comments came after Giriraj Singh, a leader of the Bihar state wing of the party, said those opposed to Modi would have to leave India and go to Muslim-majority Pakistan after the BJP won the election and formed a government.
India’s Election Commission on Tuesday barred Singh from addressing public meetings and asked local authorities to register a case against him for his “inflammatory” statements.
Modi said nobody could agree with Singh’s comments.
In a Twitter post, he admonished his colleagues on the Hindu far Right for railing against India’s Muslims and liberals in the election campaign, dubbing their statements “irresponsible.”
Television channels this week showed a video in which Praveen Togadia, a firebrand member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a sister organization of the BJP, was seen offering advice on how to prevent Muslims from buying property in Hindu-dominated areas.
Togadia denied that, saying he only asked Hindus to seek the help of police to resolve property disputes involving Muslims.
On Monday, a leader of the BJP’s alliance partner in the Western state of Maharashtra said Modi would teach a lesson to Muslim rioters. Shiv Sena leader Ramdas Kadam made the comments at a joint election rally with Modi in Mumbai.