BJP’s PM nominee says he doesn’t believe in dividing voters on religious lines



Narendra Modi, whose refusal to wear a skull cap some three years ago has become a talking point during this election campaign season, has pointedly refused to talk only to Muslims and solicit their votes, saying he did not believe in dividing voters on religious lines and was prepared to pay the price for his decision.

Asked in a TV interview what would he tell Muslims in Varanasi, which is one of the two seats he is contesting elections from this time, a defiant Modi said he would not “commit such a sin” and also that he did not believe in launching schemes to reach out to only the Muslim community. “I will not tell Hindus or Muslims anything. I will talk to 125 crore Indians. If they like it, fine. I am ready to get defeated. I am ready to get completely finished off. But I believe that the country has been divided, brothers have been divided in the name of secularism. We are all one and that is my mantra. I was successful in Gujarat. I will succeed in rest of India,” he told CNBC Awaaz, in comments that seek to draw a line under his anti-Muslim image and define himself as someone who only cares about nonpartisan development.
Asked if he had completed his efforts to reach out to the Muslim community and addressed its anxieties, he said: “I haven’t even started it. And I am not going to do it. It is not important for me. I am totally opposed to it… For the nation my mantra is 125 crore Indians. Hindu, Muslim, Christians… The country had enough of all these terminologies. The new terminologies will be youth, poor, farmer, village, city, education.” Modi, who is focusing his campaign on his record of presiding over high growth and strong governance during his time as Gujarat chief minister, also said it was important that political parties face the pressure of having to perform, which will make them do good work. A former member of his party’s intellectual right wing fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Modi defended the organisation, noting that it had become a fashion to criticise the group.
“It has become a fashion in our country that whenever the Congress is going through a bad phase, people emerge to abuse the RSS… It is the biggest nongovernmental organisation. Its capabilities should be admired and used for the benefit of the people,” he said. Blaming the Congress for the deterioration in India’s federal structure, Modi said if he became the prime minister he would ensure a ‘familylike’ environment between the Centre and states. Modi also spoke in favour of privatisation of public industries, saying it should be done on a case by case basis. “We should give them the opportunity of turning themselves around based on professional advice,” he said, adding a BJP government would work to push through the GST.
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