Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav reached out to Muslims while launching a direct attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, at a rally on Sunday.
“They apologise after mass killing of Muslims,” he said, in a reference to the 2002 Gujarat riots under Modi’s watch as chief minister.
Simultaneously, Mulayam tore into BJP president Rajnath Singh’s statement on February 25 that Muslims should vote for the saffron party, which was ready to apologise for “any mistake and shortcoming on our part”.
He said Rajnath’s apology offer was politically motivated and added that “Modi’s lies” would not work in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, the highest in the country. “I have come to Allahabad to expose Modi’s lies.”
Mulayam, who is often talked up by his party activists as a prime ministerial frontrunner, said he was the only leader to visit Gujarat after the 2002 riots. He recalled Modi had asked him not to come to Gujarat. “Modi could not stop me.”
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The UP strongman added, “Only the Samajwadi Party cares for Muslims. Muslims know that the SP won't tolerate injustice against them.”
Muslims make up 20% of the population in UP, India’s most populous state, and also have 17% vote share. He lauded Muslims for consistently supporting the SP since 1987 and said no party could lure them away.
Mulayam’s pitch comes at a time when the ruling SP is facing massive criticism over its handling of the Muzaffarnagar riots in western UP last year. This has led to talk that the SP can no longer take its support base for granted.
The SP chief took potshots at the BJP, saying the saffron party was finding it difficult to find candidates in UP, while the SP had a number of popular candidates. He said SP had popular candidates in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra as well.
He targeted Lok Janshkati Party (LJP) chief for allying with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Referring Modi’s rally in Lucknow, expected to begin almost simultaneously, Mulayam said the turnout in Allahabad would be much more than in Lucknow.
He highlighted the “achievements” of the SP government headed by his son and chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. Mulayam assured people of better road connectivity between Lucknow and Allahabad and educational facilities.
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