In an article published by ‘Saamna’, a Shiv Sena mouthpiece, Member of Parliament Sanjay Raut has demanded that the Muslim community should be stripped of its voting rights to bring an end to vote-bank politics. The article has caused a political storm in Maharashtra. In its bid to avoid any further controversy, the State unit of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has condemned the Sena leader’s claim. In the article, Raut makes the patronising claim that Muslims will not walk on the path of development if their “numerical strength continues to be misused by political parties”, and therefore should be stripped of their voting rights.
Although the Sena leader may have a point about how vote bank politics has harmed the interests of Muslims, his solution to the problem is ridiculous. Raut, however, does not merely go after “secularists”, whose “mask”, he believes, will come off once Muslims are denied their right to vote.
He also lashes out at Hindutva forces, which allegedly play the ‘Muslim card’ for political gains. According to Raut, Hindutva leaders tacitly support a radical Muslim leader since it leads to a polarisation of votes, which then helps them flaunt their reactionary colours.
“Hindutva leaders are playing with national security if they think division of Muslim votes will bring them huge electoral success,” Raut says. Although it is true that the likes of All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi continue to indulge in communal politics, this cannot mean that the Muslim community should be left disenfranchised. The right to vote is provided by the Constitution to every citizen of India.
The choice to pick your own political representative forms the very bedrock of a constitutional democracy. Deny that choice to any community and the nation will cease to call itself a democracy. The Muslim community, therefore, has the right to choose their own representative and Raut has no legal standing in the matter.