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New Delhi: Sitting BJP legislator from Uttar Pradesh’s Dumariyagan assembly constituency, Raghvendra Pratap Singh, said that if re-elected he would ensure that Muslims would stop wearing skullcaps and start putting tilaks.
His divisive comments – indicating his Islamophobia – have now gone viral, with several social media users demanding the Election Commission of India and Uttar Pradesh Police to act against him. It is not yet clear if any authority concerned has acted against him although a few reports indicate that the state police had already filed a case against him. The Wire has not been able to verify this independently.
“If you make me MLA again, Muslims will stop wearing skullcaps and start putting tilaks,” he told a gathering of his supporters in the Dumariyagan constituency on February 12, Saturday, hours before campaigning closed for the second phase of elections held in the state on February 14, Monday. Dumariyagan will vote in the sixth phase on March 3.
Raising his anti-Muslim pitch, he further asked his supporters, “Will there be Jai Shri Ram or Walekum Salam?” The cheering crowd responded with Jai Shri Ram slogans.
He claimed that since Muslims were “driven out of power”, the city had become safer. “No goons, notorious criminals are visible on the streets, anymore,” he declared. “Women and children are able to roam around safely on the streets. These b**s**rds (slur used for children born outside a marriage) today do not have the courage to look at our women.”
However, it may be pointed out that the National Commission for Women (NCW) received 31,000 complaints of crimes against women in 2021 – the highest it received since 2014. Of the total complaints, over half of them were from Uttar Pradesh.
Raghvendra Pratap Singh also urged voters to be beware of “vote katwas“, referring mockingly to other Hindu candidates from opposition parties pitted against him.
“We are afraid of vote katwas (opposition Hindu candidates contesting election) more than katwas (a derogatory term used to refer to Muslim men).”
The MLA also claimed credit for changing names of localities which earlier had supposedly Islamic names. “We have changed the names of various places since we have come to power. Allahpur was changed to Mahesh Yogi Nagar,” he said while reeling off the list of changed names carried out under the Yogi Adityanath’s government.
Even after outrage following his speech going viral, Raghvendra Pratap Singh defended his comments by saying that it was “conditional speech” meant to “counter rising Islamic terrorism”.
Although considered a stronghold of the BJP, Raghvendra Pratap Singh won the 2017 election by a slender margin of 171 votes defeating his closest rival Saiyada Khatoon of the Bahujan Samaj Party. Reportedly, it was the lowest victory margin in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election. However, BJP has won four times here since the 1977 elections.
As The Wire‘s political editor Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta noted recently, with economic distress and anti-incumbency palpable across Uttar Pradesh, BJP feels communal polarisation is its safest bet to tide over potential electoral losses. Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have been raising issues of social justice.