Mumbai/New Delhi: Shiv Sena on Sunday courted controversy by demanding scrapping of voting rights of Muslims, saying the community has often been used for vote bank politics, evoking sharp reactions from several political parties which accused it of trying to inflame passions and divide people.
An editorial in Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' also likened the All India Majlis-e-Ittihadul-Muslimeen (MIM) and Owaisi brothers to "poisonous snakes" who spew venom to "exploit" the minority community.
"Vote bank politics is being played in the name of fighting against 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.
"If Muslims are only being used this way to play politics, then they can never develop. Muslims will have no future till they are used to play vote bank politics and thus Balasaheb had once said to withdraw Muslims voting rights. What he said is right," the editorial said.
Strongly condemning the remarks, Congress said they are aimed at dividing society and inflaming passions and are unacceptable. Those behind them have no place in a culture like ours.
It also said such controversial statements continue to be made despite repeated assurances from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament.
The Samajwadi Party castigated the remarks, saying it was aimed at creating enmity between various communities and demanded that the government initiate legal action against them. Those who do not believe in the Constitution have no place in the country and should leave it, it said.
Under attack, the Shiv Sena later sought to downplay the issue, contending that the party is against "appeasement politics".
"The (Saamana) article tries to say that to achieve development in every sphere of life, the politics of appeasement being done by a section of leaders needs to be done away with as it is not in the interest of Muslims. These people are only misguiding the community without really helping them," Sena MLC and spokesperson Dr Neelam Gorhe told PTI.
The Sena in its editorial said the "secular masks" of all the so-called secular political parties will be worn out, once such voting rights are withdrawn, it said.
Taking a dig at AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi for daring Sena president Uddhav Thackeray to come to Hyderabad, the editorial said, "Owaisi dares us to come to Hyderabad. But we want to ask him if Hyderabad is in India or in Lahore, Karachi or Peshawar. The pride of Marathis is known in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kandahar as well."
"By saving the hiding place of poisonous snakes, you cannot kill them. Owaisi and his party are like a snake which, if fed, will do no good to the nation. AIMIM is an old snake," it said.
Criticising the Sena, Congress leader Anand Sharma said, "These observations deserve to be condemned.It's unacceptable. We are proud to be a constitutional democracy, a secular nation. We are proud of India's diversity, its pluralism. India belongs to all and every citizen of this country enjoys the same fundamental rights."
He said it is very clear that there are elements who are creating conflict and division in society to inflame passions and there are multiple violations taking place by some leaders and members of the extended Sangh parivar despite assurances of the Prime Minister to Parliament and the nation.
"It is for them now to realise that they have been elected to provide governance and not to create daily commodition," he said.
Another party leader Abhishek Singhvi said though he does not want to comment on "silly, ridiculous, ill informed and deliberately provocative" statements,"I think Saamna thinks it might be living in some Talibanised land and not in a secular, democratic, socialist, world's largest vibrant democracy. I think it is Saamna which has no place in a culture like ours rather than those against whom they spread hatred."
Samajwadi Party leader Kamal Farooqui said, "The Constitution gives equal rights to every citizen without any difference of caste, creed or religion and anybody who is trying to specifically target any particular community like Muslims, this country does not belong to them.
"I very strongly say that government should take legal action against them and prosecute them. All these people who have this kind of mentality, they should go to some other country," he said.
BJP leader Shaina NC said it is an independent opinion of an editorial written for reasons best known to Sanjay Raut and that BJP does subscribe to any appeasement policy as it has always adhered to policy of 'justice to all and appeasement of none'.
She, however, said, "If one is of the opinion that Owaisi brothers are trying to consolidate the Muslim vote, I think one is entitled to airing that opinion and that opinion needs to be well regarded by all."
Another Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit said the motive of such statements is to communalise the atmosphere.
"Gradually the magic of Prime Minister is going and BJP is slowly sinking much faster than the party and its allies thought and now that they are in trouble, this is the only thing that they hope will help them. Communalism helped Modi in Gujarat and helped him win the 2014 elections and that is the only thing that will help them again," he said.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who is 'Saamana' editor, said the editorial reflected what was stated by Balasaheb Thackeray 15 years ago that for social progress if you take away the voting rights of Muslim community for a few years, then the 'ownership' of Muslim votes by some leaders will end and all such leaders will face ground reality.
He added that till the time Muslim vote bank politics continues, "there will be instability in the country".
"Neither the country nor Muslims have moved forward. This vote bank politics has always tried to keep the Muslims away from the mainstream...Till the time the ownership of votebank politics will continue with some people, the Muslim community will not benefit nor will they progress.
"Today, the way Owaisi brothers are trying to spread venom all over the country, I remembered Balasaheb," he said, adding that only leaders who did votebank politics have progressed in this country and not the community as such.
He said at the time when Pakistan was formed, there were leaders like Jinnah then who did vote bank politics of the community and now people like Owaisi are doing so. He also cited examples of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad doing similar votebank politics of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, besides Abu Azmi and Mukhtar Ansari.
Updated Date: Apr 13, 2015 10:46 AM