Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Thursday accused the Congress of turning secularism into an election slogan and practising divisive politics.
Addressing a rally in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, Modi said, "For them (Congress), secularism is religion first. For us, secularism is India first."
The Gujarat chief minister launched a fresh attack on Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who had recently appealed to the minorities that "secular votes" must not split.
The saffron brigade had demanded the Election Commission's intervention, accusing Gandhi of polarising voters along communal lines.
The communalism versus secularism debate gained a fresh impetus following the controversy just ahead of the 2014 polls.
Earlier, in the run-up to the elections, Modi had come under attack for the 2002 Gujarat riots, in which nearly 950 Muslims were killed.
Even past allies such as Mayawati publicly slammed Modi, saying the country would face grave threat if he became the prime minister.
Faced with stinging attacks, Modi, whose party is confident of sweeping the summer elections, asserted in Ghaziabad that the BJP stood for an inclusive society and Gandhi was trying to mislead voters.
"Soniaji has made the mistake of trying to mislead and divide the nation. People will never forgive this kind of politics," a Times Now tweet quoted Modi as saying.
"Congress secularism is divide and rule. We say unite, integrate and work for the nation," another tweet quoted the BJP leader as saying.
Modi also attacked the Congress over farmers' plight and doling out 'false' promises in its manifesto.
He said when the country was waiting for another green revolution, the Congress was planning for a "pink revolution (mutton export)".
Modi added slaughter of animals for exporting the meat would wreak havoc on the economy of villages.
"Even non-vegetarians will be affected," he said.
Modi also said while the Congress believed in divide and rule, the BJP's motto was integration and development.
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