On a day voters picked their choices for 59 seats in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) raised its pitch on Article 370 and national security.

Addressing a rally in Himachal Pradesh, BJP president Amit Shah promised that if his party returns to power and Modi becomes prime minister, Article 370 will be removed from the Constitution. Article 370 gives special powers to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and opposition parties including the Peoples Democratic Party and the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference have criticized attempts to remove it.

Shah said other leaders from J&K had indicated their preference for a separate prime minister for the state and opposition parties had raised the issue of removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afspa) in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted opposition parties including the Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) at election rallies in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, saying they were incapable of taking on terrorists and criticized them for questioning the Armed Forces for taking action against terrorists.

Meanwhile, casting his vote in the sixth phase of polling in the national capital, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the election was fought over people’s issues.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi used hatred, we (Congress) love. And, I think love is going to win," Gandhi told reporters.

Through the six phases of polling, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has tried to make national security an election issue. The campaign has seen leaders from the NDA and opposition leaders spar over various issues including national security, corruption and unemployment.

Addressing rallies in Kushinagar and Deoria in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Modi said, “Since we have come to power, every second-third day, terrorists are killed. This cleansing mission is my work."

Modi said he was surprised that opposition parties questioned the timing of Sunday’s encounter in the Shopian district of Jammu and Kashmir in which two militants were gunned down.

“Will our jawans take EC’s permission before opening fire at militants? Now some people are perturbed over the fact that when polling is going on today, then why did Modi kill the terrorists? They (terrorists) are standing with guns toting, will my jawan go to seek the permission of the Election Commission whether I should fire at the terrorist or not?"

He said while the BSP-SP alliance was unable to deal with terrorism, during the Congress regime, a jawan was beheaded.

“It is for the fight against terror that the country is voting for the BJP and Modi. Those who used to threaten India have fallen flat, they are feeling afraid," Modi said.

Attacking BSP chief Mayawati, PM Modi accused her of “shedding crocodile tears" and said she should withdraw support from the Congress-led state government in Rajasthan. This comes after Mayawati alleged that the PM was indulging in “dirty politics" over the gangrape of a Scheduled Caste girl in Alwar.

Modi also addressed rallies in Khandwa and Indore in Madhya Pradesh (MP), which is witnessing a direct contest between the BJP and the Congress. Modi criticized the Congress government which came to power in the state six months back.

“In MP, the administration doesn’t even know whose orders are to be followed. Goons, murderers and dacoits have been given licence," he said.

PTI contributed to this story.

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