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Powerful Hindu group that spawned Modi party slams his campaign

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(Bloomberg) — India’s powerful right-wing Hindu group that helped shape the Bharatiya Janata Party criticized the election campaign as divisive and too dependent on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity.

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The campaign lacked “decorum”, spreading lies to sow tension between communities, Mohan Bhagwat, leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, said in a speech on Monday, his first public commentary on the election. Additionally, an RSS-affiliated magazine said the survey results were a reality check for “overconfident” BJP workers who were too dependent on Modi’s brand to win votes.

The RSS is the ideological parent of the BJP, with several party leaders, including Modi, starting their political careers as volunteers with the group. It is vital to the BJP’s election campaign and provides tens of thousands of volunteers to get voters to the polling booths.

The comments from Bhagwat and the RSS mouthpiece mark the first public criticism of the BJP from the wider family of Hindu nationalist organizations after the party lost its majority in Parliament in just-concluded elections. Tensions had increased between the RSS and the BJP after President JP Nadda last month dismissed the RSS’s interest in boosting support for the political party.

During the election campaign, Modi and other BJP leaders were accused by opposition groups of using anti-Muslim language and spreading fear to win support. Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described Modi’s comments on the campaign trail as “hateful.”

“There is a moral line when you fight elections, and that line has been crossed,” Bhagwat told RSS workers on Monday.

Bhagwat also called for an end to ethnic violence in the northeastern state of Manipur, which has been going on for more than a year. Opposition groups have criticized the government for not doing enough to quell the violence.

“It is a duty to address this on priority,” Bhagwat said.

An article in the RSS-affiliated magazine Organizer criticized the BJP workers for failing to get voters to the polls and not calling on RSS volunteers to do the fieldwork as they usually do during election campaigns .

“Being happy in their bubble and enjoying the glow reflected from Modiji’s aura, they did not listen to the voices on the streets,” an RSS member wrote in the magazine.

In the state of Maharashtra, where the BJP-led alliance lost its support in the elections, the RSS article accused the BJP of “unnecessary politics and avoidable manipulations.” It added that “BJP reduced its brand value in one fell swoop.”

Maharashtra, home to both India’s financial capital and the headquarters of the RSS, will hold state elections later this year.

Bhagwat also appealed for consensus building among the new government.

“We need unity in society, but because injustice has been done, distance is created between people,” he said. “There is no trust.”

–With help from Shruti Srivastava and Jeanette Rodrigues.

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