Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Modi allies in hot water for hostile electioneering

Indian politicians are often accused of using hate or intimidation to win support of the electorate

An Indian school student displays a painted hand during an election awareness campaign ahead of the second phase of India's general election in Chennai on April 12, 2019. AFP
An Indian school student displays a painted hand during an election awareness campaign ahead of the second phase of India's general election in Chennai on April 12, 2019. AFP

Two top members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party, including an estranged member of the Gandhi dynasty, were in hot water on Saturday for appearing to threaten people to vote for them in the ongoing mega-election.

Indian politicians are often accused of using hate or intimidation to win support of the electorate. Soliciting votes on religious lines or threatening voters is prohibited.

A video showed Women and Child Welfare Minister Maneka Gandhi, widow of former politician Sanjay Gandhi, warning a gathering of Muslim community members to vote for her or be shunned if she returns to power.

"I am winning with the help of the people. But if my victory comes without the support of Muslims, then I will not feel good," Ms Gandhi told a gathering during a campaign rally on Friday. "It will leave a bitter taste. And then when a Muslim comes for any work, then I will think let it be."

Her comments sparked outrage online and demands for action by the opposition Congress party – headed by her former husband's nephew Rahul Gandhi – as local election authorities told her to explain her comments.

The other new incident in the current election, which runs to May 19, involved Sakshi Maharaj, a Hindu monk, who told a gathering in the northern city of Kanpur he would "curse" those who do not vote for him.

"When a saint comes to beg and isn't given what he asks for, he takes away all the happiness of the family and in turn gives curse to the family," Mr Maharaj said, adding he was quoting from sacred Hindu scriptures.

Mr Maharaj is facing 34 criminal charges against him, including alleged murder, robbery and cheating. He is running for a second term from Unnao in Uttar Pradesh state.

The BJP member's previous comments include calling upon Hindus to produce four children and grow faster than the Muslim population.

Updated: April 13, 2019 07:09 PM

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