Union Minister Najma Heptulla today dismissed allegations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was endorsing only a certain section of Muslims, saying he considers "everybody equal" and belongs to the entire country and not just "a small sect of a community".
"For him, everybody is equal. So, those trying to put the Prime Minister into a small group... He is the Prime Minister of the country, those who elected him and those who opposed him, he is the Prime Minister of everyone," she said.
The Union Minority Affairs Minister made the remarks while responding to queries of reporters during a press briefing here to inform about Modi's recent visit to Saudi Arabia.
Responding to questions pertaining to the charges, made especially after Modi attended World Sufi Forum in the national capital and visited Saudi Arabia, Heptulla said the Prime Minister represents entire India and "not any sect" when abroad.
"He (Modi) is not of one community, one sect, one political party. He belongs to this country and when he goes outside the country, whether he goes to Saudi Arabia or America or anywhere else, he talks for everyone in the country and not of just a small sect of a community," she added.
Heptulla said Modi attending the Sufi event and his Saudi Arabia visit will "not create divide among Muslims, but will diminish it". She also referred to Modi receiving the highest civilian award in that country as an "indication" of the fading divide.
Hailing Modi's trip as "significant" in terms of tackling terrorism, the Minister said the issue of 20 per cent cut in New Delhi's Haj quota was also taken up during the tour.
Asked whether it would have been better had she been part of the Prime Minister's delegation, Heptulla said, "The Prime Minister doesn't take anybody" along while going abroad and that there is no need for her to be "physically present" as Modi is "her voice".
"Why should I go? When the Prime Minister is going, he doesn't take anybody. I don't... My voice is Prime Minister, why should I physically be present over there? The Prime Minister doesn't take anyone along, he himself goes. Hence, we prepare notes and send (to him)," she said.
Asked whether Modi attending the Sufi event and visiting Saudi Arabia have sent a positive message to Muslims including those in poll-bound Assam and West Bengal, she said, "Yes, definitely it sent a good message. The news I am getting from there (Assam) is very good. People are happy. And the Prime Minister's message from Vigyan Bhavan was very good."
The minister said the government has identified 100 Waqf properties across the country that will be developed to empower Muslim community members.
Noting the Prime Minister's visit was "successful", Heptulla said it was very "commendable" for him to bring Saudi Arabia on board on the issue of fighting terrorism.
"Today the world is faced with terrorism. What he did, he brought the Saudi Arabia on board to fight terrorism. And that I think is very commendable. I felt bad that some people (opposition parties) objected to his visit to that country. What the Prime Minister is doing is in the interest of the country," she said.
Heptulla said she was focused on the trip also because 1.5 lakh Indian pilgrims visit Saudi Arabia every year year to perform Haj, which is partly handled by her ministry.
She said there has been 20 per cent cut in India's Haj quota from Saudi Arabia's end but claimed that a positive news in this regard is expected soon.
Besides Haj, Heptulla said the Prime Minister discussed the issue of security of 1.5 million Indians living in Saudi Arabia and economic and defence co-operation between the two countries.