Vadodara corporator Shailesh Mehta ‘Sotta’, BJP candidate for the Dabhoi assembly seat in Gujarat, is being served notice by election authorities for making a “communally provocative” campaign speech Wednesday night when he said “if someone with dadhi-topi is among the people here, forgive me but their number here has to reduce” because “there should be no population of Dubai” in Dabhoi. He also said “he will not donate a single paisa to a masjid and madrasa” if elected.
A video of Sotta’s speech at a public meeting did the rounds of social media and drew the attention of election officers. Muslims constitute 37.54 per cent of Dabhoi’s population and it is also home to a large number of Patels. Addressing the meeting, Sotta said: “If someone with dadhi-topi is among the people here, forgive me but their number here has to reduce (Koi topi dadhi vala ahiya betha hoy to maaf karjo pan e vastu ahiya gha tadvani jarur che). We have to see there should be no population of Dubai here (Dabhoi). I want to assure you that I will not donate a single paisa to a masjid and madrasa.”
In his speech, Sotta said although people had advised him against speaking on communal matters, he had to speak for his “own qaum” (own community). “People warned me against speaking about this as it will create a controversy, but if 90 per cent people are with me, why should I stop speaking because of the 10 per cent? I was born in this qaum and it is my right to speak about my own qaum. If I cannot do that, then what is the point of contesting polls,” he is heard saying.
Sotta also warned that those indulging in “rioting” will be given a befitting reply. “Now those who are involved in chamakalas (rioting) must stop their activities, otherwise they will be given a befitting reply (eent no jawab patthar thi madse).” He said he had arrived in Dabhoi to “create fear” in the minds of anti-social elements. “I heard that when my name was announced as candidate here, these anti-social elements held a meeting and said they fear me. It is good. Because I am here to create fear among anti-social elements and criminals. I am not here to be scared. They must not dare to speak or look me in the eye. They should be ready to face the consequences. I am declaring this in public.”
Reached for comment, District Election Officer P Bharati said the Returning Officer had been asked to serve notice to Sotta as there was “prima facie” violation of the Model Code of Conduct. “We have seen the video and it is a serious act of violation of the Model Code of Conduct,” Bharati said. Election officers, she said, were in the process of preparing a report on Sotta’s public meeting. The Returning Officer will serve notice on Sotta Friday.
Bharati said action against Sotta will be initiated under Section 125 of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 which prohibits “promoting enmity between classes in connection with election”.
“Any person who in connection with an election under this Act promotes or attempts to promote on grounds of religion, race, caste, community or language, feelings of enmity or hatred, between different classes of the citizens of India shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both,” the Act states.
When contacted, Sotta told The Indian Express he was only referring to anti-social elements and did not name any community. “I was referring to anti-social elements who have been running their activities by threatening people in that area (Dabhoi). Some of these anti-social elements and criminals, who have been detained by police, commented that they face a threat because of me. I had to answer them. And I stand by what I say. Because I am a threat to anti-social elements, innocent people can live happily,” he said.