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Sena leader backtracks on Azaan contest after criticism by BJP

Shiv Sena leader Pandurang Sakpal, who had earlier said that he found the Azaan, the Muslim call to prayer, soothing later said that holding the competition was only a suggestion made by a Muslim party functionary and he had no plans of holding such an event.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai | Updated: December 1, 2020 12:26:30 pm
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A Shiv Sena divisional head from South Mumbai, Pandurang Sakpal, had to backtrack from announcing an ‘Azaan recitation competition’ after being attacked by the BJP, which claimed that the Sena was abandoning the issue of Hindutva and appeasing Muslims. Sapkal, who had earlier said that he found the Azaan, the Muslim call to prayer, soothing later said that holding the competition was only a suggestion made by a Muslim party functionary and he had no plans of holding such an event.

A video of Sakpal, who spoke to a local media organisation, went viral on Monday after BJP legislator Atul Bhatkhalkar shared it on social media. “There is a lot of sweetness in Azaan which I hear every day as I live close to a mosque. So, I came up with an idea of holding an azaan recitation competition for the children of the Muslim community,” said Sakpal in the video.

In 2019, Sakpal contested the Assembly polls from the Mumbadevi constituency which includes Muslim-dominated areas. Sakpal further said he told it to the party’s Muslim functionary from the Mumbadevi area. “The maulana will evaluate the children based on their voice and good pronunciation of the Azaan. Shiv Sena will bear the cost of the competition,” he added.

Targeting the Sena on the issue, Bhatkhalkar said, “The Sena has already abandoned Hindutva. The azaan competition is an attempt by the Sena to woo the Muslims for votes. Now the only thing left for the Sena to do is carry a green flag on its shoulders.”

Following the attack by the BJP, Sakpal backtracked on Monday claiming it was just a suggestion to a delegation of party’s Muslim office-bearers two days ago. “They claimed their school-going children are roaming in the streets and we should organise a competition for them. Then, on lines of Bhagavad Gita competition which we hold in our area, I suggested them to hold an online azaan competition,” clarified Sakpal.

NCP leader and minister Nawab Malik defended it saying that it is wrong to give religious colour to acting, art or competition. “BJP leaders should remember that Muslim girls got first prize in Bhagavad Gita recitation contest in Solapur and other places,” said Malik. After the Sena joined hands with the NCP and Congress for forming the government in Maharashtra, the BJP has been attacking the Sena, alleging that it has abandoned Hindutva. In October, Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari had also questioned CM Uddhav Thackeray on abandoning Hindutva over the government’s delay in reopening places of worship. Recently, the BJP alleged the Sena’s Hindutva is adulterated.

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