Why Modi is no longer certain to win India's mega-election

Smriti Irani jibes at Robert Vadra after he says 'will campaign for Congress for Lok Sabha poll'

Smriti Irani jibes at Robert Vadra after he says 'will campaign for Congress for Lok Sabha poll'

But over the last month, support for Modi's Hindu nationalist party has grown following a spike in tension with Pakistan, the polls say.

This was despite the massive alienation that Muslims in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK) and Muslims in general were facing under the BJP government, he added.

Groups of Hindu nationalists are increasingly carrying out attacks against Muslims to protect revered cattle - known as "cow vigilante mobs" - killing 24 people since 2010.

The premier said Indian Muslims he knew, who many years ago had been happy about their situation in India, were now very anxious by extreme Hindu nationalism. The Commission has sought a report from the Chief Election Officer of Maharashtra, where the Prime Minister was speaking.

The BJP's pledge this week to propose stripping decades-old special rights from the people of IoK, which prevent outsiders from buying property in the state, was a major concern, though it could also be electioneering, the country's premier said. Those to be dismantled include groups involved in Kashmir.

Modi ordered air strikes in February on the suspected camp of a militant group based in Pakistan that had claimed responsibility for a deadly auto bombing in disputed Kashmir, dramatically ratcheting up tension with the neighbouring nation.

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Jaitley also cited an Indian airstrike against an alleged terrorist camp in Pakistan after a suicide bomber killed 40 Indian soldiers in disputed Kashmir in February as proof that the incumbents have taken a hard stand against terrorism.

Congress has accused the BJP of using retaliatory air strikes on Pakistan as a political tool and has instead highlighted job creation, tackling farm distress and empowerment of women, among its top priorities.

Pakistan sent war planes into Indian Kashmir the next day and the two nuclear-armed foes engaged in their first air duel in decades. The pilot was released on March 1 as a gesture of peace by the Pakistani government.

The BJP also promised to reserve 33 percent of seats in the Indian parliament and state assemblies for women, if it is voted back to power.

The prime minister said there was still the possibility if the polls turn against Modi in the next few weeks that India could take some further military action against Pakistan.

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