'Modi dividing people, Wayanad is unity in diversity'

The statement came after Modi declared the Congress is scared to field leaders from constituencies where the majority dominates in terms of voters. File photo

A senior leader of the IUML, a major political force in Wayanad from where Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is contesting elections, on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of aiming to divide people on the basis of religion and said he should see all Indians as one.

Wayanad, a hill district in Kerala bordering Tamil Nadu and Kerala, epitomises "unity in diversity", Indian Union Muslim League leader Sayyid Munavvar Ali Shihab Thangal said, a day after Modi declared the Congress is scared to field leaders from constituencies where the majority dominates in terms of voters.

“We never expected such a statement from the prime minister,” Thangal told PTI, and added that Gandhi's candidature from Wayanad had given confidence to workers of the Congress as well as to other members of the UPA in the region.

Addressing a rally in Wardha, Maharashtra, Modi did not name Gandhi who will be contesting the Lok Sabha election from Wayanad, which has a significant Muslim and Christian population.

“The prime minister made such an immature statement, aiming to divide people on the basis of religion before polls. The prime minister should see the people of this country as one. We all are Indians,” Thangal, the state president of the Muslim Youth League, said.

Thangal, a prominent member of the Panakkadu Thangal family considered spiritual leaders by a major section of Kerala’s Sunni Muslim community, said Modi should not encourage the “divide and rule policy” carried out by British colonialists during their rule.

“It is a unique constituency having significant presence of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and tribals. They live in harmony here. There is no any issue of communal confrontation in the region. You can witness unity in diversity in Wayanad,” he said.

Thangal said he appreciated the Congress president for opting for an “isolated, backward hill constituency with a significant tribal population” to fight the Lok Sabha elections.

It shows his commitment towards farmers, tribals and marginalised sections of the society, the IUML leader added.

He expressed the hope that Gandhi, who is also contesting the polls from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, will retain Wayanad seat if he wins both the seats.

“His candidature from Wayanad seat has energised the workers of Congress-led UDF,” Thangal said.

According to him, Gandhi's candidature from a seat bordering Tamil Nadu and Karnataka has given a sense of confidence to the Congress as well as to workers of other UPA constituents, including the DMK in Tamil Nadu and the JD(S) in Karnataka.

“If a government is formed under Rahul’s leadership after polls, I am certain that he will definitely address the developmental issues of this region,” he said.

He also urged the CPI(M)-led LDF to support Gandhi who he said has waged a war against societal evils such as communalism and poverty.

Modi on Monday had charged the Congress with insulting "peace-loving" followers of the religion by linking them to terrorism.

"Some leaders are shying away from contesting polls (in the first place). Those, whom it (Congress) called terrorist, have woken up.

"They linked peace-loving Hindus to terrorism... they are scared now to contest election from constituency where majority population dominates...they are forced to go where majority (Hindus) are in minority," Modi said at the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance's Lok Sabha poll campaign in Maharashtra.

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