Under fire for seeking disenfranchisement of Muslims in India, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Tuesday made a U-turn stating that his comments have been “misinterpreted” by the media and that taking away the voting rights of the minority community is unconstitutional.
“I have not written (in party mouthpiece Saamana) that the voting rights of Muslims should be taken away. I only said that Muslims will not be used for political opportunism if they are not allowed to vote. It is wrong and unconstitutional to take away the voting rights of Muslims,” Raut told reporters in Aurangabad on Tuesday. “I did not say Muslims should be deprived of their voting rights. The media wanted some news for the day and they misrepresented my statement,” he added.
Raut had triggered a storm by writing in the Sunday edition of ‘Saamana’ in which he demanded revocation of voting rights of Muslims to bring an end to the use of minority community as a vote bank by political parties.
“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 Congress but now by 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 as long as they are used to play vote bank politics and thus Balasaheb (Sena founder Balasaheb Thakre) had once suggested withdrawal Muslims’ voting rights. What he said is right,” Raut had argued in a signed editorial.
Raut’s statement came under sharp attacks from political parties which condemned his views and demanded that a formal complaint be lodged against the Rajya Sabha MP. Delhi-based lawyer and civil rights activist Shehzad Poonawalla also filed the complaint with National Minorities Commission and seeking a direction to register an FIR against Raut and Election Commission to initiate action against Shiv Sena.
BJP, with which Sena shares power in Maharahstra and at the Centre, however, voiced its displeasure at Raut’s remarks holding such suggestions are “unacceptable” and went against the Constitution as there cannot be any discrimination on the basis of religion on the issue.