Targetting Congress candidate and sitting MLA Amin Patel, and “those who vote for him”, BJP’s Mumbai unit president Mangal Prabhat Lodha delivered a communally charged speech in Mumbadevi Wednesday, as he referred to previous instances of riots and terror attacks to claim that the bombs and bullets were manufactured “in lanes within 5 km”.
Lodha was one of the speakers at a campaign meeting for Shiv Sena candidate Pandurang Sakpal in the Kumbharwada area of the constituency, which has a sizeable Muslim population. The meeting was also attended by Shiv Sena’s Aditya Thackeray who arrived after Lodha’s speech. “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?” Lodha said.
“(Remember after the 1992 riots…how many blasts took place in Mumbai, how many bullets were fired, where were their manufacturing centres? 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?)”
Lodha did not name any locality but the Dongri and Nagpada areas in the vicinity have a large Muslim population.
Lodha said that since there is a BJP-Shiv Sena government at the Centre, state and municipal corporation, the voters should consider voting for the alliance to keep Mumbai safe.
“If you vote for Amin Patel, it will be burden on you and us, which we will not be able to forgive ourselves for… beech ke andar yeh jo jhanda lehrayega…toh humare liye kaise sweekarya hoga (The flag that will fly in the middle… how can we accept it)?,” he said.
Lodha also alleged that Patel would look after the interests of “one particular community”. “When an old building falls, the residents are not rehabilitated in transit camps in Ghodapdev (in the constituency) but have to go to Mankhurd, Dharavi. Why are they not kept in the transit camps here? (Because) It is allotted to one particular community… aur mere yahaan rehnewale Hindu Marathi bhaiyon ko door-door jaana padta hai (and my Hindu Marathi brothers who live here have to go far),” he said.
Lodha also said: “Ab toh nagaada baj hi chuka hai, sarhad pe shaitan ka, toh nakshe par se naam mita do papi Pakistan ka (The bell has started tolling for the demon at the border, wipe out the sinner Pakistan from the map).”
Speaking to The Indian Express, the BJP-Sena alliance candidate Pandurang Sakpal said that Lodha’s remarks may have been based on “his personal views and experiences”. “I personally do not discriminate between any community. I work for all voters and will continue to do so. I have never partitioned between Hindu and Muslim areas and continue to get a good response from all areas,” he said.
Congress candidate Amin Patel said that he believed “in the idea of secularism” and didn’t want to react to the nature of Lodha’s speech. However, Patel responded to the specific charge on transit camps: “Among the demands I had made as an MLA was for 50,000 transit camps to be built on Mumbai Port Trust land, which can be used for residents of all old buildings, of all communities. This state government has not proposed a single transit camp in its term.”