The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday demanded an "unqualified apology" from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath over his remarks about Hazrat Ali, a revered figure in Islam, at an election rally.
The party urged others in the country to desist from using religions and religious personalities for political gains.
Adityanath had recently targeted Congress leader Kamal Nath over a leaked video of his meeting with Muslim leaders where he was seen asking them to ensure 90 per cent of electors from the community voted for the party.
"I was reading a statement of senior Congress leader Kamal Nath. He said they don't need SC, ST votes. They just need the votes of Muslims. You keep your Ali, for us Bajrang Bali will be enough," the Uttar Pradesh chief minister had said addressing an election rally in Bhopal.
Senior PDP leader Naeem Akhtar said Hazrat Ali, the son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad, is one of the leading lights of Islam and dragging his name in election speeches is "blasphemous".
"The BJP leadership and Yogi Adityanath must offer an unqualified apology for the speech in which name of Harzat Ali was used in a bid to stoke communal passions and achieve electoral gains," he said in a statement.
The major political parties, instead of talking about governance and development issues, convey an impression through their speeches and wide media coverage that Muslims are the only problem facing this country, he added.
"It is unfortunate that at the time when unprecedented upsurge is being witnessed in unemployment, religion is taking the centre stage in the country and Muslims have been turned into punching bags," Akhtar said.
The PDP leader said the Indian political spectrum cannot wish away the 200 million Muslims from the country.
"You have to learn to live with them and grant them the dignity that they deserve and desist from making them a part of your electoral strategy," Akhtar said.
He said Muslims have given this country their blood and are an asset for it.
"Unfortunately, Muslims are now looked down upon as a problem and a liability. They are being converted into whipping boys every time there is an election," the PDP leader said.