In the run-up to the BMC elections and to checkmate its erstwhile ally, the Shiv Sena, on the Hindutva issue, BJP legislator Prasad Lad on Thursday announced that his party was strongly against ‘azaan’ using loudspeakers and wants the practice to stop. To substantiate his argument, Lad, a former NCP leader turned confidant of the leader of the opposition, Devendra Fadnavis, said the use of loudspeakers during ‘azaan’ in the old days was to know the time but now, everyone has watches and mobiles which display the time.
He also questioned why only Hindu festivals are opposed and reiterated that the BJP would end the traditional call for azaan over loudspeakers. He claimed that now, there was no need for the use of loudspeakers for this purpose.
The timing of Lad’s announcement is important. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had lashed out at the BJP last week for questioning his Hindutva and had alleged that the BJP had been using Hindutva to win elections. Thackeray had also claimed that he had parted ways with the BJP, not Hindutva. The BJP had targeted the Shiv Sena for supporting ‘azaan’ competitions in Mumbai.
Lad’s announcement has sparked a political debate in the state.
Deputy Chief Minister and veteran NCP leader Ajit Pawar said that all political parties should work to maintain communal and social harmony.
Shiv Sena legislator Manisha Kayande questioned Lad’s timing in raking up the issue. She said the BJP had not raised it at the recently concluded UP assembly elections.
“I have heard Lad’s byte. The fact is that ‘azaan’ is a call to prayer. Now, it’s just a matter of loudspeakers,” she said. “Why was the issue not raised during the UP assembly elections? Aren’t there mosques? Why Lad (or the BJP) did not suggest this before the UP elections?” she sought to know.
Kayande alleged that the issue has been deliberately raised so to create communal disharmony. “BJP hopes to benefit from the riots and that is its sole objective,” she alleged.
She asked Lad whether he had studied Islam and questioned his authority to speak on the subject. “As far as the loudspeaker is concerned, there are court decisions about it,” she observed.
Further, she asked why Lad had not raised the issue when Devendra Fadnavis was the chief minister and had also held the home department between 2014 and 2019 in the state. “The BJP did not think of raising the issue during that time. But now that there is a Maha Vikas Aghadi government ruling the state, it has made an attempt to create rift between two religions,” she claimed.