Shiv Sena Member of Parliament Sanjay Raut sparked off a controversy on Sunday by calling Bollywood actor Sonu Sood, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) puppet and suggesting he would soon emerge as the party's star campaigner. The actor is currently in the spotlight for helping hundreds of stranded migrant workers get back home. Raut, in a satirical article in Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna, mocked Sood, saying a new 'Mahatma' had emerged in the coronavirus lockdown.
He claimed Sood was being promoted by the BJP to attack the Shiv Sena, which is heading the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra. He said that the actor was doing all this through funds collected from a charitable organisation. The BJP slammed Raut saying it was unfair of the Sena to target Sood. Former Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam dubbed Raut's remarks as being in poor taste and a vain attempt to cover up the Uddhav Thackeray government’s failure to tackle the coronavirus crisis.
In the article, Raut asked: “What machinery did Sonu Sood have to organise the travel of thousands of workers to their homes? Actually, the one behind this is Shankar Pawar, the chief of the Rashtriya Banjara Sewa Sangh, who is chief but only in name "For the last few days, a new 'Mahatma' has appeared, named Sonu Sood. His name has been mentioned in connection with sending thousands of migrant workers to their native places in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Odisha, Delhi and other states," said Raut. How could Sood help those migrant workers when even the state and the Central governments failed to do anything, wondered Raut in the article. Further, he reminded, the governor of Maharashtra, Bhagat Singh Koshyari, had also praised 'Mahatma Sood' for his work.
Raut was trolled on Twitter for his criticism of Sood. One user wrote, “SONU SOOD DID THIS BECAUSE YOUR GOVT FAILED. so, your failure is the primary reason behind this. think about that as well (sic)”; another tweeted, “Instead of thanking @SonuSood for doing his work, Shiv Sena is busy attacking the innocent actor for his services.’’
Yet another questioned: "It is seriously baffling why so many people who had asked Sonu Sood for help and he responded immediately, and facilitated their travel, would delete their tweets." Others expressed surprise at so many migrant workers in distress having Twitter accounts. One tweet mysteriously hinted at the Bihar election: "Hang on till Bihar election and voting day ..."