Modi’s ‘Pakistan card’ sparks controversy in tense Indian elections

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stirred up controversy on Thursday by implicating the main opposition, the Indian National Congress (INC), as a “follower” of Muslim-majority Pakistan.

Modi alleged that the opposition party had incited India’s Muslim minority to engage in a “vote jihad” to thwart his reelection bid in the ongoing general elections.

In response, the historic Indian National Congress party denounced Modi’s “hate speech,” amidst escalating attacks by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the marginalized minority.

“The Indian National Congress is a follower of Pakistan,” said the prime minister, mentioning the Muslim-majority neighbor during his address to thousands of supporters in his home state, Gujarat.

The state is known globally for the 2002 massacres of more than 1,000 Muslims in religious riots when Modi was the Gujarat chief minister.

The prime minister is widely accused of being anti-Muslim and promoting the anti-minority group, which forms 14 percent of India’s 1.4 billion population.

Modi is also accused of using anti-Muslim rhetoric to mobilize Hindu voters, particularly in the northern and central Indian regions – the core base of Modi’s ideology of promoting Hinduism.

By dragging Pakistan into the election rhetoric, Modi invokes historical tensions between the two countries, which have fought multiple wars since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

It is a historic fact that India has fought three major wars, including the 1971 liberation of Bangladesh, against Pakistan when the Congress was in power at the center.

As the election campaign intensifies, Modi’s BJP has amplified its anti-Muslim rhetoric, with Modi accusing the Congress of organizing a “vote jihad” and rallying Muslim voters against his leadership.

The Congress party, Modi said, “urged Muslims to unite and participate in this vote jihad in the upcoming elections.”

The prime minister also referred to other conspiracy theories launched in the past by Hindu nationalism such as the “love jihad,” according to which Muslim men deceive Hindu women in marrying them and converting them to Islam.

The Indian National Congress condemned Modi’s growing hate speech against the Muslims.

Congress President “Mallikarjun Kharge urged Modi to seek votes based on his government’s performance over the past 10 years “rather than resorting to hate speeches.”

India’s massive seven-phase elections began on April 19, with vote counting scheduled for June 4. The initial phases witnessed a lower turnout compared to 2019.

A coalition of opposition parties, led by the Indian National Congress, has raised concerns about the authoritarian tendencies of Modi’s Hindu nationalist government and its attacks on minorities.

BY: Nadeem Faisal Baiga