MUMBAI: Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna in an editorial on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban the burqa following Sri Lanka’s decision to do so in the wake of the Colombo blasts, drawing sharp rebuttals from Muslim leaders, and qualifications and reactions from within the saffron fold. While senior Sena leader and Saamna executive editor Sanjay Raut justified the piece saying it echoed Bal Thackeray’s views on national security, Matoshree is worried the editorial might embarrass ally BJP, which is fighting a crucial phase of the Lok Sabha elections in north India, where the burqa is a sensitive issue. Formally, the Sena has distanced itself from the editorial. The BJP played down the Sena’s demand, with party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao saying there’s no need for any such ban as “Under PM Narendra Modi’s leadership, India is safe”. In a clarification, Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said the editorial was not the party’s official line. Saamna is owned by a private trust controlled by the Thackerays. Uddhav, who is abroad on vacation, called up Gorhe and asked her to put out a clarification to quell misunderstandings, sources said. Raut remained defiant. Insisting that the burqa was not a religious or political issue, but related with security, he tweeted that all those who live in India will have to bow before issues of national security. A party functionary close to Raut said, “While writing in Saamna, Raut has always toed Balasaheb’s line. (Bal Thackeray) held strong views on issues of national importance. Raut’s editorial echoes identical views. (Sena MP) Madhukar Sarpotdar had demanded a burqa ban during a Lok Sabha debate in the 1990s.” In his editorial, Raut said, “We welcome the Sri Lankan government’s decision, and demand that PM Narendra Modi should take a cue from it and clamp a ban on the burqa in India in the national interest.” Slamming Raut for his “regressive views”, MIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said Shiv Sena had violated the model code of conduct by fanning communal disharmony through its mouthpiece. #ElectionsWithTimes
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