BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj wants burqa-clad women voters be checked at booths

Lucknow: BJP MP (Unnao) Sakshi Maharaj on Friday said that women force should be deployed at polling booths in the last two phases of the UP Assembly polls to check identity of burqa-clad female voters and prevent bogus voting.

“Women security personnel should be deployed at booths to check persons coming to vote in a burqa,” he said adding another comment to his list of controversial statements.

The controversial leader echoed the same words of BJP leaders J P S Rathore and Kuldeep Pati Tripathi that have left some Muslim bodies fuming.

In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner on Thursday, the party said, “The BJP demands that to establish the identity of burqa-clad female voters in the sixth and seventh phase of the UP polls, women police and central paramilitary forces be posted at sensitive and hyper-sensitive polling booths”.

Rathore and Tripathi said in the letter that a large number of burqa-clad women exercise their franchise and there was a possibility of false voting.

“Adequate deployment of female police would ensure proper checking of women voters, and at the same time, minimising incidents of bogus voting,” they said.

A large number of constituencies going to polls in the last two rounds on March 4 and 8 fall in Muslim-dominated districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

The demand by the saffron party, however, did not go down well with Muslim organisations, with some of them accusing BJP of deliberately indulging in “polarisation politics”.

Mahila Muslim Personal Law Board Chairperson Shaista Amber said, “Till now, the election and voting process have been rather smooth, and the Election Commission deserves a round of applause for this. However, in a bid to polarise the votes in the sixth and seventh phase, the BJP has now come up with this strange demand”.

She said this act of BJP smacked of its “sick mentality”.

“Whether a woman is wearing burqa or ghoonghat, no one has the right to offend her womanhood and dignity,” she said.

Shia Personal Law Board spokesperson Yassob Abbas said, “This is a deliberate tactic of the BJP to polarise the votes. We would not tolerate even an iota of insult to burqa.”

He said even non-Muslim women living in villages wear ‘pallu’ (veil).

“Will the pallu (of non-Muslim women) be removed to check and verify their identity?” he asked, adding “It is better not to do any politics over burqa”.

Senior member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahali said, “Ever since the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections have started, a conscious attempt has been made to target Muslim women”.

“It started with triple talaq, which has fallen flat on the face of the BJP,” he said.

He also said that as per the laid down provisions of law, a voter is allowed to cast his or her vote only after the poll official cross-checks and verifies the Electors Photo Identity Card (EPIC) card.

“I think that there is a planned attempt to keep Muslim women voters away from voting,” he said.

Saharanpur-based Islamic seminary of Darul Uloom Deoband refused to comment.

Muslims make up around 19-20 per cent of UP’s population of nearly 200 million.

Out of 403 assembly constituencies in UP, there are nearly 120 seats where the percentage of Muslim voters is more than 20 per cent (Muslim-dominated seats) and in certain parts of eastern UP, their population is up to 27 per cent.