Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday stated that his successor Narendra Modi had attributed false statements to him and engaged in the most vicious form of hate speech during campaigning for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

“I have never in my life singled out one community from the other,” said Singh in a letter addressed to the people of Punjab, where the general elections are scheduled for June 1. “That is the sole copyright of the BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party].”

The former prime minister seemed to be responding to false claims that Modi made in poll rallies that the Congress would distribute citizens’ private wealth among “infiltrators” and “those who have more children” if voted to power, a dog-whistle reference to Muslims.

Modi made the claim during a speech in Rajasthan’s Banswara on April 21, in which he referred to remarks that the former prime minister purportedly made on December 9, 2006 at a meeting of the National Development Council.

Singh had said that the country’s priorities were to uplift the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities and women and children.

“We will have to devise innovative plans to ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to share equitably in the fruits of development,” Singh had said. “They must have the first claim on resources.”

In his letter on Thursday, Singh wrote: “Modi ji is the first prime minister to lower the dignity of public discourse, and thereby the gravity of the office of the prime minister. No prime minister in the past has uttered such hateful, unparliamentary and coarse terms, meant to target either a specific section of the society or the Opposition.”

Appeal to voters of Punjab

Speaking about the country’s economy and drawing comparisons with the situation when the United Progressive Alliance government was in power, the former prime minister further appealed to the voters of Punjab to cast their vote for “development and coordinated progress”.

Singh wrote: “Only Congress can guarantee a development-led progressive future, where democracy and the Constitution will be protected.”

He also criticised the BJP-led Central government for its response to the 2020-’21 farmers’ protest against three farm laws that have since been withdrawn.

“Modi ji had promised to double the income of our farmers by 2022,” said Singh. “His policies in the past 10 years have eroded the earnings of our farmers. The national average monthly income of farmers is a meagre Rs 27 per day, while average debt per farmer is Rs 27,000 [National Sample Survey Office].”

Singh highlighted the United Progressive Alliance government's loan waivers "worth Rs 72,000 crore to 3.73 crore farmers" and said it had increased the minimum support price “at the heart of renewed farmers protest against the BJP government”, and increased production while encouraging exports.

He said the Congress’ manifesto for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections has also promised a legal guarantee for the minimum support price, “a stable income-export policy for agriculture” as well as loan waivers and the "direct transfer of insured compensation in 30 days in case of crop loss".

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