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The Rise of Islamophobia in India’s Election Campaign

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of employing increasingly divisive and Islamophobic rhetoric during his election campaign, raising concerns about potential violence against the Muslim minority. In recent rallies, Modi has labeled Muslims as “infiltrators,” accused them of having “too many children,” and alleged that the opposition Indian National Congress party is plotting to “loot” the wealth of Hindus and redistribute it among Muslims.

These allegations are part of a broader pattern of Hindu nationalist rhetoric from Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which seeks to create a Hindu state. Critics argue that this rhetoric, which includes references to conspiracy theories like “love jihad” and “land jihad,” could incite further violence against Indian Muslims. They also point out that the creation of a Hindu state would likely lead to discrimination against minorities, as Muslims are already grossly underrepresented in government institutions.

Modi’s inflammatory rhetoric has been accompanied by a BJP campaign video portraying Muslims as outsiders who have plundered India’s wealth. The video was removed after concerns grew about communal violence. The BJP has also used art and culture to promote its Hindutva philosophy, with Hindutva pop stars and influencers spreading messages of Hindu supremacy.

Despite these concerns, Modi’s prospects of winning a third term have been bolstered by a weak opposition and India’s enhanced global standing. His campaign has highlighted economic achievements like making India the world’s fifth-largest economy and boosting military spending. However, analysts argue that the BJP’s use of polarizing speeches may also be a response to lower-than-expected voter turnout in the first two phases of the election.

If Modi wins a third term, he is likely to maintain his pro-Hindutva, anti-Muslim, and hegemonic attitude towards regional countries, particularly Pakistan. However, there are also some lessons that Pakistan could learn from India’s electoral process, such as the large scale of the elections and the largely accepted results.

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