THE RETURNING Officer of Mumbadevi constituency has recommended no action against BJP city chief Mangal Prabhat Lodha and two others in connection with a speech given by him during the state Assembly elections. Showcause notices were issued by the election commission on October 17 to Lodha, Shiv Sena candidate Pandurang Sakpal and Abhishek Gurav, the organiser of the sabha where the speech was given in Mumbadevi.
The returning officer, Vishwas Gujar, last month submitted the report to the office of the district collector, who serves as the district election officer. An official from the collector’s office in-charge of elections said that since the report did not recommend any action, it will be considered as a conclusive one with no further steps on it.
Lodha, who was one of the speakers at the sabha, had during his speech invoked the 1992-93 riots in the city as well as terror attacks, while referring to the voters of Sakpal’s opponent, Congress MLA Amin Patel.
“Aap yeh bhi yaad rakhiye ki 1992 ke dangon ke baad… is Mumbai ke andar kitne bomb blast hue, kitni goliyaan chali, kitne bomb ke dhamake hue, yeh saara udyogsthan kahan par hai? Yeh saara udyogsthan yahan ke aapke 5 km ki galiyon ke andar hai. Aur unke voton ke… unka saath lekar, jo vyakti chunke aayega, woh aapke aanewale samay mein kya dhyan rakhega? (Remember after the 1992 riots, how many blasts took place in Mumbai, how many bullets were fired, where were they manufactured? They were manufactured in lanes within 5 km from here. A person who is elected with votes from those lanes, how will he take care of you in the times to come?),” he said.
While Lodha did not name any community, he referred to Patel’s voters and spoke of how he looked at the interests of only “one particular community”. In his response to the showcause notice, Lodha had said that he was referring to law and order. Sakpal in his response had said that the speech was Lodha’s “personal views and opinion” and that he was distancing himself from statements made by any other person during the sabha.
In the report, the officer has submitted that a speech was given on October 16, during the election campaign for Sakpal at Durga Devi chowk, a video recording of which is available with the commission. It further says that a showcause notice was issued on the next day and their responses received. The report further says that the speech, notice and responses are being forwarded to the district office, without offering any comment on whether a violation of the model code of conduct was found or not.
During the election campaign in Maharashtra, while showcause notices were sent in at least three cases for objectionable speeches given by candidates, including to Lodha, FIRs were registered in two of these. In Santacruz, an FIR was registered against AIMIM candidate Arif Shaikh on charges of promoting enmity between different groups (section 153 A) of the Indian Penal Code and a section under the Representation of the People’s Act. An FIR was also registered against BJP’s Ramesh Singh Thakur for a communally charged speech, based on the EC’s complaint.