The Shiv Sena on Sunday demanded that voting rights of Muslims be revoked to prevent the community from being exploited by political parties for vote bank politics.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, in a column titled ‘Rokhthok’, launched an attack against the challenge of the AIMIM, led by the Owaisi brothers, who campaigned during the recent Bandra East by-election. Mr Raut referred to the brothers as “poisonous snakes” who exploited the dissatisfied Muslim community. “Vote bank politics is being played in the name of fighting the injustice meted out to Muslims. Their educational and health status is being used politically. This politics was once played by the Congress and now every other person calls himself secular,” Mr. Raut wrote.
“If Muslims are only being used this way to play politics, then they can never develop. Muslims will have no future as long as they are used as vote banks, which was why Balasaheb had once said voting rights of Muslims must be withdrawn. What he said then holds true.”
The article also alleged that in the Bandra East by-poll, the AIMIM candidate had revealed how he was offered money to withdraw candidature and help prevent a division of Muslim votes.
The Shiv Sena however, later sought to play down the controversy, stating that Mr. Raut’s article was against “politics of appeasement’,” not against the voting rights of Muslims. “It only says it is not right for leaders like Owaisi to nurture and exploit the dissatisfaction in Muslim community over the lack of development,” Sena MLC Neelam Gorhe said.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant demanded the resignation of Mr Raut as Rajya Sabha MP for “negating” a Constitutional right of a community.
AIMIM Aurangabad MLA Imtiaz Jaleel condemned Mr. Raut’s statement. “How can the fundamental voting rights of Muslims be revoked in a democracy?” he asked.
NCP leader Nawab Malik wondered why the Sena had allowed the withdrawal of five percent reservation for Muslims given by the Cong-NCP government if it was so concerned about Muslims.