Samajwadi Party lawmaker Nahid Hasan has sparked off a controversy by asking the people of his assembly constituency, Kairana, to boycott "pro-BJP" shopkeepers and instead procure their everyday necessities from Panipat in neighbouring Haryana.
The BJP has condemned his appeal, saying that it amounts to dividing society along political lines.
Video footage of Nahid Hasan's appeal has been widely circulated on social media. "My appeal to all the residents of Kairana is that you should stop purchasing goods, items and material from pro-BJP shopkeepers," he is heard urging members of his community in the clip. "For the next 10 days or even a month, it would be better to shop from Panipat even though you may face some hardships."
Nahid Hasan claimed that "pro-BJP shopkeepers" depend on the people of Kairana for business. "If you boycott them, they will have to mend their ways and fall in line (tabiyat mein sudhaar aa jaayegaa)," the Kairana lawmaker is heard telling people.
When news agency PTI approached him for a confirmation, he promptly owned up to it. "Small traders, both Hindus and Muslims, are harassed by pro-BJP shopkeepers of the city who want to uproot small traders from their traditional marketplace. There are more from my community around here, and they are making money out of us," he said, before adding that it was his "personal opinion".
Uttar Pradesh BJP spokesperson Chandramohan termed Nahid Hasan's appeal as "abysmal and divisive". "What the Samajwadi Party MLA said was abysmal. One does not expect such a divisive statement, aimed at dividing the society, from a public representative," he told PTI, adding that it was proof of the Samajwadi Party's role in "creating unrest in western Uttar Pradesh, riots in Muzaffarnagar, and forcing the "exodus of people from Kairana".
Chandramohan said that it was improper to draw links between businessmen and political parties. "A trader is a trader. Such comments are not good for the society. This is an example of dirty politics," he added.
Uttar Pradesh Minister Sidharth Nath Singh also echoed a similar sentiment. "This is an attempt to divide the people. Now, Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party will decide which businessman is affiliated to which party. But our motto is Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (taking everybody together, ensure everybody's progress), and we will need to take action if somebody tries to obstruct this," he said.
Nahid Hasan, however, received the backing of party colleague Azam Khan. "It is sad that such a situation arose. But who is responsible for it? Who had started this? We (Muslims) stayed back, our ancestors stayed back in India, but now we are being forced to choose between Pakistan and the kabristan (graveyard)," news agency ANI quoted him as saying.
(With inputs from Agencies)