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Political row erupts in Maharashtra over actor Kangana Ranaut’s remark on Mumbai

By Swapnil Rawal, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON SEP 05, 2020 12:22 AM IST

Actor Kangana Ranaut’s comments about Mumbai and the city’s police force sparked a political row on Friday, with Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh saying “she has no right to stay in Mumbai”. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut and the Congress targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), alleging that she is “toeing their [BJP] party line”, while the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) threatened to file a case against Ranaut for “anti-national activity”. The BJP, however, distanced itself from the actor’s remarks, saying it “does not subscribe to anti-Mumbai or anti-Maharashtra sentiments”.

The controversy erupted after Ranaut tweeted that Raut had issued an “open threat” to her to not return to the city if she had no faith in the Mumbai Police. “Sanjay Raut Shiv Sena leader has given me an open threat and asked me not to come back to Mumbai, after Aazadi graffitis in Mumbai streets and now open threats, why Mumbai is feeling like Pakistan occupied Kashmir?” she tweeted.

The tweet drew criticism from ministers and political parties. “The manner in which she has commented on Mumbai Police, she doesn’t have the right to live in Mumbai,” Deshmukh said. Transport minister Anil Parab, too, said if she does not have faith in the state government and Mumbai Police then she has no reason to live in the city.

The Shiv Sena women’s wing even staged protests against the actor in Thane, Dindoshi and Dadar. Sena’s Thane legislator Pratap Sarnaik called for a case of sedition to be registered against Ranaut.

“If she comes here, our warriors will break her mouth. I urge the home minister to file a sedition case against Kangana Ranaut for calling Mumbai, as Pak occupied Kashmir (PoK),” Sarnaik tweeted.

The actor, meanwhile, in response, sent out a series of tweets challenging anyone to stop her from entering Mumbai and slammed Deshmukh for making “Taliban-like threats”. “He [Deshmukh] is taking his own calls on my democratic rights, from PoK to Taliban in one day,” she tweeted, followed by another tweet that read, “After Sushant and Sadhus murder now beating my posters with chappals for my opinions on administration, it seems Mumbai is addicted to blood.”

Parab, who was speaking on behalf of the government, said that there is a pattern to defame Maharashtra government and Mumbai Police. “Some actors are enjoying everything that Mumbai gave them and are still criticising the city. We see a pattern where Maharashtra and Mumbai are being constantly defamed. Investors want to come to Maharashtra; attempts are being made to discourage them to not come to Mumbai and Maharashtra by creating such an atmosphere. Mumbai’s International Financial Service Centre went to Gujarat, several major companies have shifted to Gujarat. Therefore, by defaming Mumbai, is there a conspiracy to move Bollywood out of the city too?” said Parab, , who is known to be close to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.

“Nearly 15 days have passed since the probe [in Sushant Singh Rajput case] has gone to the CBI. During this time, Kangana Ranaut hasn’t sought any protection from CBI, nor has she given any information to the central agency. Tweets were only meant to vitiate the atmosphere… I appeal to Kangana Ranaut to hand over any and all material [to the investigating agency]. She should expose and uproot the ‘drug mafia’ nexus in Bollywood that she claims is connected to Sushant Singh Rajput’s death,” the minister said.

The Sena minister also backed party colleague Raut and said, “When has she visited PoK, how was her experience there compared to what she has achieved here in Mumbai? Therefore, we say that if she does not have faith in the [Maharashtra] government or Mumbai Police, then she does not have any reason to stay here. Whichever state government she trusts, she should go there and stay, and that’s what Sanjay Raut also said,” said Parab.

Raut, meanwhile, attacked BJP, but without naming the party or the actor.

“Any political party, which is backing the one calling Mumbai as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, do not have the right to seek votes in Mumbai and Maharashtra. Their representatives, who are elected from the city, have they been voted in by people from PoK?”

The BJP distanced itself from the actor’s remarks, fearing backlash. BJP MLA Ashish Shelar clarified that BJP does not support the actor’s statement. “Some political parties are trying to twist and turn the Sushant Singh Rajput case. On the statements made by Sanjay Raut, we wish to say that we do not support the statement of Kangana Ranaut on Mumbai. Kangana Ranaut shouldn’t try to teach Mumbai, Maharashtra and its people how to behave,” said Shelar. “We also request Sanjay Raut not to try and attack BJP and misdirect the investigation in the death case of Sushant Singh Rajput.”

Ram Kadam, BJP MLA, in a tweet, said, “We do not support any offensive statement of Kangana Ranaut. Now that she is showing the readiness to spill out the politician-actor ‘drug mafia’ nexus, has that become a cause of fear for the Maharashtra government?”

Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant, in a statement, said that @KanganaTeam, the official handle of the actor, is “Kangana + BJP IT Cell”.

“For the past few days, Kangana Ranaut through the IT cell has been continuous defaming the Mumbai Police. Now she has compared Mumbai to Pakistan occupied Kashmir and insulted Maharashtra. Instead of condemning her actions, BJP’s Ram Kadam is supporting her, which is utterly shameful,” Sawant said in a statement, in an offensive against the BJP, demanding a narco test for Ram Kadam, pointing out that the latter has “inside knowledge about the drugs and Bollywood links”. “We also want to know the BJP connection to drugs and who producer Sandeep Ssingh was speaking to in BJP’s Maharashtra unit office when he called there 53 times.”

The MNS film workers’ union, meanwhile, said they plan to petition the Mumbai Police to file a case against Ranaut for indulging in “anti-national activity”. “The Mumbai Police should book her for anti-national activity and also take her to a psychiatrist. If she continues to make such statements, our women workers will teach her a lesson,” said Ameya Khopkar, president of the union.

Union minister Ramdas Athawale, however, said that Republican Party of India (RPI) will provide security to Ranaut. “Everyone is entitled to air their views and stay in any part of the country. It is wrong on the part of Sena to threaten her. My RPI activists will offer her protection,” said Athawale.

Ranaut, too, tweeted at night, thanking those supporting her. “No words to express my gratitude for my friends from everywhere including Maharashtra, they know my intentions and I don’t need to prove my love for my Karmbhoomi Mumbai who I always referred to as Maa Yashodha who adopted me, Jai Mumbai Jai Maharashtra #indiawithkanganaranaut.”

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