Nawada, Bihar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been targeted for days over his silence on the mob killing of a Muslim man over beef rumours in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, today used a rally in Bihar to deliver a strong message.
"In a democracy everyone has the right to speak their mind. But Hindus must decide whether they want to fight Muslims or poverty. Muslims must decide whether they want to fight Hindus or poverty," he said.
As he attacked his critics in rally after rally in the state that goes to polls from Monday, PM Modi saved his strongest words for the last meeting at Nawada, where he also invoked President Pranab Mukherjee's statement yesterday warning against letting India's core values of diversity and tolerance waste away. "The Rashtrapati has shown us the way. There is no bigger inspiration than him, let's follow his path," he said.
Addressing the litany of political attacks over the past week, PM Modi did not directly mention Dadri as he performed a tough balancing act that involved keeping his development agenda undiluted without displeasing his party's core supporters with open condemnation of the murder of 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq over rumours that he had killed a calf and eaten beef.
Yet, with his carefully chosen words, the PM appeared to tackle not just his political opponents but also party men who have made controversial statements in the aftermath of the Dadri incident.
"I want to tell the people that because of politics and for petty gains, people are making irresponsible statements. I appeal to citizens not to take them seriously. Even if Narendra Modi himself says something like that, don't listen to him," he said.
He referred to the blasts at his rally in Patna in 2013 to say: "There's a conspiracy to ensure that Modi never shows his face again. Games of death are being played."
Sources in the Prime Minister's Office had indicated yesterday that he may speak on the Dadri incident during his rallies in Bihar.
Reacting to the PM's statement, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar told NDTV: "It is not adequate because he is not responding to the incident directly. If he has a clear conscience, rather than using the President's statement as an alibi, he would have unequivocally condemned the issue and spoken clearly on it."