Some Muslims in Gujarat vote for Narendra Modi because if they don't, they will be thrown in acid tubs, Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan said on Monday, raising the tempo of the hostile exchanges between the BJP and the SP.
"Do they have an option?" Khan said, a day after Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) prime ministerial candidate, blamed Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav for failing to check communal riots in UP.
On Modi being democratically elected the chief minister of Gujarat, UP's urban development and minority affairs minister said, "Even Hitler was democratically elected."
In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, Modi is showcasing an inclusive approach even as he deals with the taint of the 2002 Gujarat riots under his watch as CM. Of more than 1,200 people killed in the riots, nearly 950 were Muslims.
Along with Modi-bashing, Khan also slammed the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) for protests that led Mulayam to cancel a recent visit to the institute. AMU teachers had opposed his visit, expressing anguish at the way the ruling SP had handled last year's riots in Muzaffarnagar.
"What have they done to assuage the hurt of the community?" Khan asked.
He was speaking to the media after announcing the launch of 2,184 "people-centric" programmes worth Rs 511 crore.
The launch is being seen as an attempt to move before the model code of conduct comes into force.
Khan said financial clearance for the programmes had been obtained and work on all of them would begin within 24 hours.
"The schemes include construction of toilets, drains and interlocking work in Dalit and minority-dominated villages."
On Sunday, Mulayam had reached out to Muslims and lauded them for consistently supporting the SP since 1987. He had said no party could lure Muslims away from the SP.
Muslims make up 20% of the population in UP, India's most populous state, and also have a 17% vote share. This is an influential chunk of votes in a state with 80 Lok Sabha seats — the highest among states.
Mulayam's pitch came at a time when the ruling SP faces criticism over its handling of the Muzaffarnagar riots. This has triggered talk that the SP can no longer take the support of Muslims for granted.