Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi on Tuesday sought to calm fears about the future of religious minorities under his rule, saying his government would represent all Indians whether they voted for him or not in an ongoing general election.
Modi, prime ministerial candidate for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and favourite to become India's next leader, is running on a platform of reviving an economy going through its worst slowdown since the 1980s.
But half way through a five-week campaign to win over the country's 815 million voters, some members of the BJP and its hardline affiliates are facing accusations of trying to whip up a partisan agenda.
Their statements have re-ignited concerns among religious minorities about a BJP government, which rivals say has a deep-seated bias against India's 150 million Muslims.
"This government belongs to those who have voted for it; this government belongs to those who have voted against it; this government belongs even to those who could not cast their ballot," Modi told the ABP News television channel.
"And the mantra of my government is absence of fear."
The comments came after Giriraj Singh, a leader of the Bihar state wing of the party, said those opposed to Modi would have to leave India and go to Pakistan after the BJP won the election and formed a government.
Modi said nobody could agree with Singh's comments.
In a Twitter post, he admonished his colleagues on the Hindu far right for railing against India's Muslims and liberals in the election campaign, dubbing their statements "irresponsible".
Television channels this week showed a video in which Praveen Togadia, a firebrand member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a sister organisation of the BJP, was seen offering advice on how to prevent Muslims from buying property in Hindu-dominated areas.
Togadia denied that, saying he only asked Hindus to seek the help of police to resolve property disputes involving Muslims.
On Monday, a leader of the BJP's alliance partner in the Western state of Maharashtra said Modi would teach a lesson to Muslim rioters. Shiv Sena leader Ramdas Kadam made the comments at a joint election rally with Modi in Mumbai.
Modi himself is tainted by accusations that he turned a blind eye to, or even encouraged Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 in Gujarat, the state he has governed for 13 years. More than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed in the violence.
He has always denied the accusations and a Supreme