Modi brings up Pakistan as polls cross fourth phase

Published May 14, 2024
A tribal woman gets her finger inked before casting her vote at a polling station during the fourth phase of India’s general election in Rangareddy district in the state of Telangana, on Monday.—Reuters
A tribal woman gets her finger inked before casting her vote at a polling station during the fourth phase of India’s general election in Rangareddy district in the state of Telangana, on Monday.—Reuters

NEW DELHI: As Indian elections crossed the fourth phase on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped up his divisive rhetoric, bringing in Pakistan and accusing his opponents as being frightened of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

Mr Modi targeted the opposition INDIA bloc, calling its leaders “cowards” who were “scared of Pakistan’s nuclear power”.

Addressing three back-to-back rallies in Bihar’s Hajipur, Muzaffarpur and Saran Lok Sabha constituencies, Mr Modi made an apparent reference to a recent statement of National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, without mentioning him by name, reports said.

“The INDIA bloc seems to have leaders who are scared of Pakistan and have nightmares of its nuclear power,” he said.

Indian PM calls opposition leaders ‘cowards’

The remarks come against the backdrop of comments by Mr Abdullah about Pakistan having atom bombs and not wearing bangles.

“If Pakistan does not wear bangles, we will make the country wear these. I knew they did not have food grains. Now, I came to know they do not even have adequate supply of bangles,” the prime minister continued in the vein that has made him a laughing stock with the opposition.

He has accused the Congress of planning to steal buffaloes and mangalsutras from Hindus to hand them over to Muslims.

“But, we must look carefully at the opposition which seems to be full of cowards and timid people, who give a clean chit to Pakistan…, raise doubts on surgical strikes… their Left allies even want our nuclear arsenal to be dismantled,” he was quoted as saying.

Mr Modi claimed without any evidence that the INDIA bloc had worked out a formula, which would allow five of its leaders, if the coalition came to power, to enjoy a year of premiership each.

Earlier, he seemed to target his own business allies for carting moneybags in three-wheelers to his opponents, chiefly the Congress.

“Just imagine what type of a mess we would get to see if the bloc’s plan to have a different PM, every year, for five years, succeeds. However, they are a motley group that is bound to fail,” he said.

“The current elections are for having a government that will give a further boost to the standing and clout enjoyed by the country,” he said.

Mr Modi also said the money recovered in raids against politicians “belonged to the country’s poor”. “I will tell you why they are crying hoarse against the action of agencies like the ED. During the previous Congress regime, the ED seized only Rs35 lakh, which could be contained in a school bag. Ever since we took over, the agency has recovered Rs2,200 crore, which would require 70 small trucks to be carried,” said Modi.

The prime minister said unlike his opponents, who were concerned about promoting their offspring, “I have no ‘waaris’ (successor). The common people are my waaris”. He reiterated the charge that parties like the Congress and Lalu Yadav’s RJD party will “give away reservations” to Muslims “to pursue their vote bank politics”, but added that “as long as I am alive, I will not let this happen”.

“Kidnapping and extortion flourished during the RJD rule in Bihar... NDA fights for social justice, 60 per cent Union ministers from OBC/SC/ST categories,” he asserted. “It has been several days since I challenged the Congress-led opposition to give it in writing that it will not give reservations on religious lines. They are yet to respond,” Mr Modi said.

Voter turnout

The fourth phase of India’s 44-day long general election took place on Monday for 96 seats. Overall turnout was reported at around 62.3 per cent, with lows of 52.75pc and 58.7pc reported from Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh constituencies and a high of 75.94pc from West Bengal.

Turnout in Srinagar was 36.58pc. Andhra Pradesh and Odisha also voted for their state assemblies. AP’s turnout was 68pc and Odisha, whose assembly election will also be in phases, saw a 63pc turnout.

A case has been filed against the BJP’s Hyderabad candidate Madhavi Latha for alleged misconduct at a polling station in Azampura, according to the returning officer.

In a video widely shared online, Ms Latha can be seen verifying the voter identity cards and Aadhaar cards of women wearing a burqa, and asking them to reveal their faces. She told reporters later that she was upset there were no officials to verify the identity of voters.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2024

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