MUMBAI (TIP): Shiv Sena 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.

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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said the “secular masks” of all the so-called secular political parties will be worn out, once such voting rights are withdrawn, it said.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.”

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