Political opponents accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “hate speech” after an address during an election rally when he seemingly cast Muslims as taking the wealth of other Indians.

Modi, 73, told a rally in Rajasthan on Sunday that when the opposition Indian National Congress party held power in India, “they said Muslims have the first right over the country’s resources.”

If Congress returned to power, “they will gather all your wealth and distribute it among those who have more children,” Modi said in a comment widely interpreted as referring to Muslim Indians. “They will distribute it among the infiltrators,” he continued.

“Do you think your hard-earned money should be given to infiltrators?” Modi added, to applause.

Modi’s remarks referenced a pledge in 2006 by former Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who outlined the need to financially empower India’s minorities.

Mallikarjun Kharge, president of the Congress party, rejected the accusation in a post Sunday on X and characterized Modi’s comments as “hate speech” and a “ploy to divert the focus of the people.” Kharge said Congress’s political manifesto is “for every Indian” and champions equality and justice “for all.”

Abhishek Singhvi, a senior Congress member, told reporters Monday that the party has registered a complaint with the Election Commission of India.

More than half a billion Indian voters are expected to cast ballots in the world’s largest election, which Modi is widely expected to win. Staggered voting began Friday in the country of over 1.4 billion people and is due to end on June 1, with votes counted on June 4.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has traditionally drawn more support in the north since he came to power almost a decade ago. This election could hand Modi a rare third term in office as his party takes on an alliance led by Congress and other regional parties.

Modi’s party has pushed for a more explicitly Hindu vision of India’s identity in contrast to post-independence leaders, who saw the country more as a secular, multicultural democracy. Hinduism is the faith of about 80 percent of the population.

The BJP has not responded directly to the criticism of Modi’s comments. The prime minister repeated similar comments on Monday in Aligarh, a city in Uttar Pradesh.

Earlier this year, Modi inflamed religious tensions after he inaugurated a grand Hindu temple on the site of the razed mosque in the northeastern city of Ayodhya. At the event, he spoke of pride restored and a glorious “new epoch” awaiting believers in Lord Ram like himself.

Plans to amend a citizenship law that excludes Muslims from a naturalization fast track have also been a point of contention in the country. The law has been criticized for using religion as a criterion for citizenship in violation of the secularism embraced by India’s founders.

“Modi today called Muslims infiltrators and people with many children,” Asaduddin Owaisi, the leader of a Muslim political party, the All India Council for Unity of Muslims, known as AIMIM, wrote Sunday on X. “Since 2002 till this day, the only Modi guarantee has been to abuse Muslims and get votes,” he added in response to Modi’s remarks.

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