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Hemendra Chaturvedi, Hindustan Times
Aligarh (Uttar Pradesh), April 06, 2014
BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Sunday went after the Congress' minority welfare record, trying to pick holes in the ruling party's major poll plank and woo the community a day ahead of the start of the nine-phase elections. Modi's Congress-bashing came at the same Numaish maidan in Aligarh where UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi had addressed an election rally on Friday and tom-tomed her party's efforts to improve the lot of the minority community, who form 13% of the country's population.

Modi, however, accused the Congress of "ignoring" Muslims, saying the community had largely remained poor despite decades of Congress rule.

He claimed that the Muslims were far better off in Gujarat and blamed those practising vote-bank politics for the plight of the community, specially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The city in Uttar Pradesh, home to the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University, has a sizeable Muslim population.

"The UPA government led by the Congress had declared a 15-point programme for minority welfare and 90 Muslim-dominated districts, including 15 in UP, were chosen across the nation for benefiting minorities. However, when a member asked in Parliament about the progress of such schemes for minority welfare, the government's reply was that not a single paisa had been spent on this scheme, planned for the betterment of the poor among Muslims," Modi said.

Claiming that 50% of Muslims living in urban areas of Uttar Pradesh and 60% in Bihar were poor, Modi said that the number was just 14% in Gujarat.

Modi alleged that 700 riots took place under the present Central government, out of which 250 were in a state led by "netaji's party", a reference to Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The reference to riots came in the wake of a controversy generated by his right-hand man Amit Shah, who allegedly exhorted Gurjars, Rajputs and Dalits – affected by last year's communal violence in Muzzaffarnagar – to vote for "revenge".

The Congress has asked the Election Commission to order Shah's arrest and ban him from campaigning but the BJP claimed the comments have been taken out of context.

Modi, who reached the rally ground at the scheduled time of 12.45 pm, also sought to connect with the city's voters in a personal capacity, saying, "Aligarh ne jo pyar diya, woh mere sar ankhon par" (I bow to the affection bestowed on me by Aligarh).