By Shaikh Azizur Rahman

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of amplifying divisive rhetoric during the country’s election campaign by calling Muslim votes “Vote Jihad” to encourage Hindus to vote for his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which is seeking a historic third term.

Modi told a BJP rally last Tuesday in the central Madhya Pradesh province that voters would have to carefully choose between “Vote Jihad” and “Ram Rajya.” The term, meaning “Ram’s Governance,” refers to an ideal society characterized by equality, prosperity and justice. In recent years, some have come to believe this ideal can only be achieved through the rise of the BJP.

“At this important turning point in history you have to decide whether you will allow Vote Jihad to continue or, vote in support of building a Ram Rajya,” Modi told the rally.

“Terrorists in Pakistan have launched jihad against India. And here, the Congress party has announced a Vote Jihad against the BJP, and is asking its followers of a particular religion [Muslims] to unitedly vote against Modi.”

The Indian National Congress party is the main opposition party.

Delhi University professor of Hindi, Apoorvanand, who goes by one name, told VOA on Friday that, sensing a lack of enthusiasm among Hindu voters, Modi and other BJP leaders are “desperate to energize them by feeding them the tried and tested anti-Muslim rhetoric.”

“The BJP has turned this election into a war between Hindus and Muslims,” he said.

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