Made mistake, but don't play it up: Modi on Northeast 'immigrants' goof-up

New Delhi: A day after the BJP drew flak over a "typographical error" of referring to people from the northeast as "immigrants" in its Vision Document, Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended his party and decried attempts to rake up the issue for political mileage.

"Attempts are being made to provoke people from the northeast... a mistake was made and the party accepted it," Modi said addressing an election rally in Ambedkar Nagar in south Delhi.

"No one should play with the unity of the country for political benefits," he said.

Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Modi said he has visited the northeastern states many times and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government would develop the region "more than what has happened in the past 60 years".

The prime minister's comments came as the BJP termed the issue an "inadvertent mistake" and regretted it.

"Due to an inadvertent mistake the word immigrant was used in the Vision Document. The party regrets this," BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said Wednesday.

"The word 'immigrant' was used in the heading, but the paragraph ahead used the word migrant," he said at a press conference.

"Our brothers and sisters from the northeast are proud citizens of India wherever they are. The BJP walks an extra mile to ensure their safety and this mistake is regretted," said Prasad, who is also the communication and information technology minister.

BJP spokesperson M.J. Akbar also expressed regret over the error.

"We regret deeply and I want to reassure all our brothers and sisters of the northeast that everyone from there in Delhi is as valuable, as important to the BJP as any other citizen of Delhi," Akbar said.

On Tuesday, the BJP released its Vision Document for the Feb 7 assembly election where a section said: "North eastern immigrants to be protected."

The Congress demanded that the BJP apologise to the people of the northeast.

BJP leader and Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, addressing a press conference, clarified that it was a "typographical error", but said the BJP was the only party to mention creation of a separate northeast cell in its Vision Document.

She hit out at the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party, saying that while the two parties were criticising the BJP for the error, the parties had no provision for northeast people in their manifestos.

The reference to people from the northeast in the Vision Document found mention as there have been many attacks on people from the region in Delhi.

An edited version of the Vision Document was published on the BJP website Wednesday with the word "immigrants" removed as well as the reference to "migrants" in the subsequent elaboration.

The heading was changed to "People from the North East in Delhi to be protected".

"Special cells in all police stations and special 24-hour helpline numbers to be set up for the protection of the north eastern people living in Delhi," the edited version said.

"To safeguard the students of N.E. (northeast) origin, special guardianships will be arranged with local families for them," it added.

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