A Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Rajasthan has said that he will not seek votes from people of the Meo Muslim community as he thinks most of them are criminals. While speaking to The Indian Express on Wednesday, Banwari Lal Singhal also accused the community of luring Hindu women as part of love jihad.

“There is absolutely no doubt that most people from the Meo community are involved in criminal activities, be it grabbing land or trapping Hindu girls as part of a planned strategy of love jihad,” said the Alwar Urban MLA. “I have never asked for their votes and nor will in future, as otherwise I might be morally bound to protect them from legal action for their criminal acts.”

He said the remark was only about the Meo people of Alwar and not the entire Muslim community. There are about 3.5 lakh Meo Muslim voters in the Alwar Lok Sabha constituency, according to NDTV.

Pehlu Khan, a man who was lynched by cow vigilantes in Alwar in April 2017, reportedly belonged to the community.

Singhal had made similar remarks at a community meeting on Sunday too. “Even illiterate Muslim girls know that they should neither love nor marry a Hindu boy,” he had said. “But the highly talented and intellectual Hindu girls are becoming secular and going with Meo Muslims.”

On Monday, he had told The Times of India that Hindu families should not allow Muslims to enter their homes. He accused the community of being involved in crimes such as cow slaughter, love jihad, creating fake identities and committing fraud.

The Bharatiya Janata Party had criticised the statement on Tuesday. “Such statements washed away all our efforts to reach out to the [Muslim] community,” BJP leader Hamid Khan Mewati told The Times of India. “We have been working hard to connect the community with BJP but such loose statements bring us on the ground zero.”