Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized Monday a controversial Muslim divorce law that has divided politicians and religious leaders in the country. Modi said the “lives of Muslim women cannot be allowed to be ruined” by the law.

The controversial Sharia law practice called “triple talaq” allows a Muslim man to divorce his wife simply by saying “I divorce you” thrice. Women in the country have protested the existence of the “triple talaq” which is banned in most Islamic nations but allowed in India.

“Those who want to digress from ‘triple talaq’ are instigating people … in the country, lives of Muslim women cannot be allowed to be ruined by ‘triple talaq’,” the prime minister reportedly said. “I am surprised that some political parties of the country in their lust for vote bank are hell-bent upon committing injustice to women in the 21st century. What kind of justice is this?”

Speaking at a political rally in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, Modi said: “Politics and elections have their own place but getting Muslim women their rights as per the Constitution is the responsibility of the government and the people of the country.”

Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims make up 19 percent of the population, will vote in state elections next year. The state previously gave Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party a large number of seats in the 2014 national election but the party needs a bigger support base than its core Hindu vote bank to secure a win in the upcoming state election.

Modi also appealed to the Indian media covering debates on this controversial law not to turn it into a government vs. opposition or a “Hindu-Muslim issue,” the Hindu newspaper reported.

“The debate should be between knowledgeable persons from the Muslim community, who know their sastras [sacred scripture], the Quran. There are progressive, educated and scientific people in the community. The discussion should be between those who want change in Muslim society and those who do not want the country to know what the issue is,” the prime minister said.

However, critics lashed out against Modi, accusing him of “converting the triple talaq issue into a political tool.” Asaduddin Owaisi, chief of the Muslim political party All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, told Reuters on Monday the prime minister was “desperate” for a win.

“‘Triple talaq’ was Modi’s new political tool to break up the Muslim vote,” Owaisi said. “The prime minister can stoop to any level. He now wants Muslim women to vote for him as he is desperate to win Uttar Pradesh.”

Owaisi said in speech Sunday that hardly one percent of the total Muslim population in India opt for the “triple talaq.”