Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought the support of Muslim women, claiming that his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was fighting for their rights by abolishing instant triple talaq.
Modi said the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance was working to ensure that Muslim women get similar rights as others. The Modi government decided to make triple talaq (divorce) a punishable offence through an executive order. A bill to ban the practice is stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling coalition lacks numbers.
“I would like to tell the Muslim sisters of Bhadohi and across the nation, several countries don’t have the provision for (instant) triple talaq. We do not want to disrespect anyone’s religious feelings and traditions, we are only following the Constitution. The constitution provides for equal rights to everyone," Modi said at a public meeting in Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh, on Sunday.
By appealing only to Muslim women, the prime minister is trying to portray his party as the one fighting to liberate them from patriarchy and religious orthodoxy.
Muslims account for at least 18% of the population in Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 lawmakers to the Lok Sabha.
Muslims are not the traditional support base of BJP and ground reports suggest they are likely to support the alliance of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh.
Modi’s outreach to Muslim women comes amid a heated and sometimes bitter political campaign to elect 543 Lok Sabha members in seven phases. Polling has already taken place in 374 constituencies in four phases.
On Sunday, Modi launched a scathing attack on the Congress and SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh. He said those parties only wanted to promote their family members and sought power to become rich using the money meant for the poor. “Congress, SP and BSP have always made people fight in the name of caste and religion. These people only want to promote their own family members," Modi said.
In what would come as a relief for the Congress, BSP chief Mayawati on Sunday made a public appeal to voters and supporters of the SP-BSP alliance to vote in favour of that party in its bastions of Amethi and Rae Bareli. While Amethi is the Lok Sabha seat of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, Rae Bareli’s current lawmaker is former Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
“We have not done any coalition with the Congress, but to defeat the BJP our coalition will vote for the Congress in Amethi and Rae Bareli," Mayawati said in a statement.
While the SP-BSP alliance had already announced it would not contest the two pocket boroughs, Mayawati’s outreach is significant as she has been attacking the Congress throughout her campaign programmes.
The Congress and BJP also exchanged bitter words over Modi’s recent remarks on former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, in which he had said that the latter’s life ended as “corrupt number one". Top leaders of the Congress condemned the remarks.
“Modiji, the battle is over. Your karma awaits you. Projecting your inner beliefs about yourself onto my father won’t protect you. All my love and a huge hug. Rahul," the Congress president said in a post on Twitter.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.