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Modi in Varanasi: ‘The day I do Hindu-Muslim politics…’

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi greets his supporters during a roadshow on May 13, 2024 in Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. (Photo by Elke Scholiers/Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

IN a major statement, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday (14) said it is his opponents who tarnished his image among the minority Muslim community after 2002, referring to the communal riots that broke out in the western state of Gujarat when he was its chief minister. He also said that the day he indulged in ‘Hindu-Muslim’ politics, he will not be eligible to stay in public space.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with News18 in Varanasi, his parliamentary constituency where he filed his nomination for the June 1 elections, Modi said he never does “Hindu-Muslim” politics and believes in delivering to all people, irrespective of their identities. “That 100 per cent saturation is the true social justice, the true secularism,” he said.

When Modi was asked during the interview whether he has succeeded in overcoming the prevalent view among many people that he is not for Muslims, he said he has had many Muslim allies over the years and alleged that a mindset has been created against him among members of the minority community.

Read: Not opposed to Muslims, says Modi amid high religious polarisation

“This issue is not about Muslims. No matter how much an individual Muslim may support me, there is an ideological view that dictates them … and they take their decisions based on that,” he said in the interview.

Modi also recalled that during his growing up years in Gujarat, several Muslim families used to reside in his area and there was communal harmony.

“We used to celebrate Eid … in fact, on Eid, food used to come to our house from all Muslim families. During Muharram procession, we used to pass under the Tazia, we were taught all these things while growing up,” he said.

Read: Modi files nomination from Varanasi, recalls ‘amazing’ ties with city

Modi then went on to lament that his image was harmed by his opponents after the riots of 2002 and he tried to get into the depth of that.

PM Modi lamented that his image was spoiled by his opponents after the Godhra riots in 2002 and recalled several instances to the contrary.

“After 2002, my image was tarnished post-Godhra. I tried to get to the depth of this. I held a training camp of our youth workers and we carried out a survey at Ahmedabad’s Manek chowk, where all traders are Muslims and all buyers are Hindus. It used to be very crowded all the time.

“Our workers used to ask people there – how did their Diwali go? They used to reply: ‘It’s very good’. And whenever they took my name, nearly 90% of the shopkeepers used to say that they won’t hear anything against Modi because their kids were finally going to school ever since he became the CM [of Gujarat]. Their mothers were happy that their kids were on the right path due to me,” the PM added.

“Second, a Muslim woman came to meet me from Muslim-dominated Juhapura and congratulated me. She lauded me for cutting illegal electricity cables in her neighbourhood … she said ‘you have one power minister in the government, but our area has power ministers in every locality … these people used to charge us money in exchange for electricity. They used to steal electricity from the government and sell it to us’,” Modi said.

The news outlet also asked Modi over his controversial “infiltrators” and  “those with more children” remarks made at an election rally in the north-western state of Rajasthan in April that saw his critics accusing him of targeting the Muslim community.

Responding to that, Modi said he had never targeted any particular community and was surprised why people linked it with the minority community.

“Why such injustice towards Muslims? In our country, poor families have more kids. They are unable to send their kids to school. In any society, poor people have more kids,” he said.

“I never referred to Hindus or Muslims specifically … I said that people should give birth to kids according to their means and not rely on government for assistance,” he added.

Asked whether Muslims will vote for him in the elections, Modi said he believes that it is the people of India who will vote for him and refused to acknowledge the idea of “Hindu-Muslim” politics.

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