Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said he was not “surprised” by Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s purported remarks that his party stood for Muslims, but wondered if he supports the community’s womenfolk as much as its men on issues like triple-talaq. (Live updates)

Addressing a public rally after laying the foundation stone for the Purvanchal Expressway in Azamgarh, Modi said: “I have heard over the last two days that a naamdaar leader (referring to Rahul Gandhi) recently described the Congress as a party of Muslims. I am not surprised because even former prime minister Manmohan Singh once said that Muslims have primary rights over the nation’s natural resources.”

The Prime Minister, however, alleged that the Congress was selective in its affection for Muslims. “I want to ask this leader if his party stands only for Muslim men. Because they definitely don’t stand with Muslim women on issues like triple talaq and nikah halala,” he said.

Modi’s attack on Gandhi and the Congress on the issue came a day after defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman accused the Congress of playing a dangerous game by “dividing the country along communal lines” ahead of the 2019 general elections. Both were referring to an Urdu news report that cited Gandhi as allegedly saying at a meeting with Islamic scholars that the “Congress is a Muslim party”. The Congress, however, has maintained that its party president was misquoted.

The Prime Minister also picked on the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, claiming that “certain political parties” have been using the names of historical personalities such as Ram Manohar Lohia and BR Ambedkar only for politics’ sake. “These parties have not done any welfare work for the public or the poor. They have only worked for their own families,” he said, accusing the opposition of “stalling development” by not allowing Parliament to function.

Modi said the Purvanchal Expressway, connecting Lucknow to Ghazipur, would take Uttar Pradesh to greater heights. “More than Rs 23,000 crore will be spent on the project. All the cities and towns that fall on this route will witness a sea change,” he added.

The Prime Minister also praised chief minister Yogi Adityanath, stating that his government has changed the very perception of Uttar Pradesh. “Yogiji has been able to curb the crime rate and corruption in Uttar Pradesh. He has contributed immensely to the state’s development,” he said.

(With agency inputs)

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