Apr 13, 2015    mumbai PTI :Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut has stirred up a new controversy by claiming in his weekly column for Saamna, the party mouthpiece, that the voting rights of Muslims should be scrapped “to stop the use of Muslims as a votebank”. All parties condemned these remarks, but the Shiv Sena tried to downplay it by saying Mr Raut’s column had only criticised appeasement politics and it should not be “misinterpreted as being against the Muslim community”.In his Sunday column in Saamna, Mr Raut, who is also its executive editor, claimed that late Sena supremo Bal Thackeray had suggested the voting rights of Muslims should be taken away to stop “votebank politics”. Mr Raut went on to say he agreed with the idea.“The issue of Muslim votebank is the matter of worry and also a headache. Everyone is indulging in “votebank politics” under the pretext of (fighting to remove) their sorrows, poverty and lack of education. Some time back, the Muslim votebank was the Congress’ monopoly,” Mr Raut said.The Shiv Sena MP claimed Congress candidate Narayan Rane had offered Rs 17 crores to AIMIM candidate Rehbar Khan to withdraw from the Bandra East Assembly byelection. “Every candidate who calls himself ‘secular’ tries to ensure that another candidate who can divide Muslim votes does not contest. The AIMIM candidate during his election campaign announced he was offered Rs 17 crore by the Congress candidate to withdraw. Some people want candidates who can divide Muslim votes and some do not want division of Muslim votes. As long as mere numbers of Muslim voters is going to remain the only factor in an election, development of the Muslim community is not possible. There will be no future for Muslims as long as there is Muslim votebank politics. Therefore Balasaheb had demanded scrapping of voting rights of Muslims, and it was correct,” Mr Raut said.Mr Raut’s comments evoked strong reactions from other political parties, who condemned the suggestion by the Sena leader. 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.”Samajwadi leader Kamal Farooqui said, “The government should take legal action against them and prosecute them. All these people who have this kind of mentality should go to some other country.”Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said the opinion expressed by Mr Raut was misunderstood. She said: “The article doesn’t want Muslims’ voting rights taken away, but it is not right for people like (AIMIM leader Asaduddin) Owaisi to nurture the deprived feelings of Muslims. They have been deprived of development and are being used and misguided for personal benefits. He (Sena MP and Saamna editor Sanjay Raut) is opposing such appeasement politics.”In New Delhi, lawyer and civil rights activist Shehzad Poonawalla filed a complaint Sunday with the National Commission for Minorities against Mr Raut. In his petition, Mr Poonawalla said: “The footage and report provided (in his petition), clearly shows that Sanjay Raut advocates the revocation of voting rights for Muslims in India. This similar demand of disenfranchisement of Muslims in India had been made by Subramanian Swamy in 2011 and the commission had sought penal action against the former.”“He (Raut) has made these comments in his capacity as a Rajya Sabha MP, so it also constitutes a violation of the election law. Hence, the Election Commission should take a stand against it,”
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