A day after BJP’s Mumbai chief Mangal Prabhat Lodha delivered a speech in which he insinuated that bombs and bullets used in terror attacks after the 1992 Bombay riots were manufactured in Muslim-majority areas of the city, the Election Commission issued a showcause notice to him.
The notices were issued on Thursday to Lodha and Shiv Sena’s Mumbadevi candidate Pandurang Sakpal. Speaking at a rally in support of Sakpal on Wednesday, Lodha claimed that bombs and bullets used in previous terror attacks and riots were manufactured “in lanes within 5 km” of the venue. Though he did not mention the “lanes”, he was likely referring to the Dongri and Nagpada areas, which have a sizeable Muslim population.
According to reports, Shiv Sena youth wing chief Aditya Thackeray also addressed the rally. Maharashtra’s assembly elections will be held on October 21.
Taking suo motu cognizance of the speech, Mumbadevi returning officer Vishwas Gujar sought responses on Lodha’s speech. Gujar told the Indian Express that the EC team present at the meeting had recorded the speech.
The officer said that a decision on the future course of action will be taken within 48 hours. Lodha is the MLA of the Malabar Hill constituency in Mumbai and is also a prime real estate developer. In his speech, he also claimed that Mumbadevi’s MLA Amin Patel looked after “interests of one particular community”.
Reacting to Lodha’s statements, MLA Amin Patel that he would sue the BJP Mumbai chief for defamation. “[But] before that, voters in the locality will avenge the crassly communal and humiliating statement,” he said. Patel added that the statement “shows the frustration of BJP and its city chief”, who has “targeted an area which has been peaceful”.
Residents of Dongri and Bhendi Bazaar area also took offence to Lodha’s statements. One resident told the newspaper that the BJP is polarising voters because it has failed on the economic front. “Banks are sinking and depositors are dying of heart attack. Instead of giving hope to the people, BJP is busy polarising voters in the name of religion,” M.A. Khalid, a resident of Dongri said.
Bhendi Bazaar resident Ghazala Azad said that the area suffered immensely during the curfew imposed after the 1992 riots. “Cops had fired indiscriminately and many innocents were killed and injured. Lodha must apologise,” Azad said.
Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party has decided to file a formal complaint with the EC. It called the remarks a “serious violation” of the model code of conduct. The comments could also invite cases under sections of the Indian Penal Code related to “hate speech and outright incitement”, the party said.
In another case, the EC also issued a showcause notice to the principal of a school in Bandra (West). Reports said that the BJP’s ‘Jansampark Abhiyaan’ forms were allegedly distributed at the Rizvi Springfield High School’s premises during a parents and teachers association (PTA) meeting on Wednesday.