India PM hopeful Modi weighs in hate speech row

Narendra Modi distances himself from alleged hate speech by Hindu nationalists

Narendra Modi distances himself from alleged hate speech by Hindu nationalists

NEW DELHI - Indian prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has criticized  Tuesday alleged inflammatory statements made by politicians affiliated with his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"I disapprove any such irresponsible statement and appeal to those making them to kindly refrain from doing so," Modi wrote on microblogging site Twitter. "Petty statements by those claiming to be BJP’s well-wishers are deviating the campaign from the issues of development and good governance."

He appeared to be referring to Pravin Togadia, leader of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and BJP's state politician Giriraj Singh, whose recent comments have hindered BJP's attempts to portray the party as moderate.

Togadia, who was once close to Modi, has denied the accusations of hate speech despite being recorded calling on Hindus to forcibly evict Muslims residents from Hindu-majority areas. 

"We should have it in us to take the law in our own hands in an area where we are a majority and scare them," said Togadia.

Modi's statement, however, caused a mixed reaction on social media, with suggestions that the use of language was not sufficiently assertive.  

"Good that Modi puts distance between himself and party and VHP hate-mongers. But isn’t 'petty statements' a bit mild?," said Barkha Dutt, a senior journalist at local the NDTV channel.

"You proved me right that you actually agree with @drPravinTogadia or u would have named him in your tweet," Tehseen Poonawalla, who describes himself as a "political trendwatcher," said in a Twitter post. 

"Here is a DARE 4u Modi ji: why don’t u tweet #MUSLIMS have the right to live where they wish? Can u sir."

On Sunday, the BJP's Giriraj Singh, from northern state Bihar, told a public gathering that critics of Modi have no place in India and should move to Pakistan.

India's election commission has taken action against both Togadia and Singg for making hate speech, under the country's criminal penal code.

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