The Election Commission of India has issued a notice to the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Mumbai unit Mangal Prabhat Lodha for allegedly making a communally-charged speech during an election campaign rally on Wednesday.
The poll body has sought an explanation from Lodha regarding his statements allegedly targeting a particular community and violating the election code of conduct.
Lodha is contesting Monday’s assembly election in Maharashtra from Malabar Hill assembly segment in Mumbai.
The notice was issued by the Election Commission-appointed returning officer for the Mumbadevi assembly segment, Vishwas Gujar.
“It is a suo moto action taken by the Election Commission based on Mangal Prabhat Lodha’s statements recorded in an English daily newspaper in Mumbai on Thursday this week,” Gujar said on Friday.
“The statement itself was made by Mr Lodha on Wednesday during a rally in Mumbadevi,” the poll official added.
Lodha was campaigning for the candidate of the BJP’s alliance partner Shiv Sena Pandurang Sakpal when he made the alleged comments. Sakpal is contesting from Mumbadevi against sitting legislator from Congress, Amin Patel.
The Election Commission said Lodha referred to the riots of 1992 in Mumbai, saying the bombs and weapons used then were made ‘within 5km from here’.
He also targeted Mumbadevi MLA Amin Patel, saying ‘he will work for a particular community, according to the commission.
“In the 1992 riots, remember the blasts that took place and many bullets were fired. They were fired in lanes that are just five km (away) here. Serial blasts ripped through the city in March 1993, killing over 250 persons after the Mumbai riots,” he is heard as saying in an audio clip of the alleged speech, according to news agency PTI.
“How a person winning with their votes will come to your aid?” Lodha allegedly asked without naming Congress candidate Amin Patel, a Muslim, PTI reported.
Localities such as Dongri and Nagpada come under Mumbadevi and have a sizeable population of minorities.
“After the collapse of old buildings here, residents are shifted to Mankhurd and Dharavi. It is as if these areas (Mankhurd and Dharavi) are allotted to a particular community. But the Hindu-Marathi brothers have to go to transit camps in distant places,” he also said.
Lodha was unavailable for comment.