Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut on Sunday wondered whether the Bharatiya Janata Party propped up Bollywood actor Sonu Sood to 'offer help' to migrant workers from north India stranded in Maharashtra amidst the lockdown, with the political motive to show the Uddhav Thackeray government in poor light.
In his weekly column 'Rokhthok' in Sena mouthpiece Saamana, Raut questionned the sudden rise of 'Mahatma' Sood on the social scene of Maharashtra during the lockdown.
Raut also referred to a 'sting operation' against Sood ahead of the 2019 general elections, saying he had agreed to promote the BJP-led government at various platforms through his official social media accounts.
The Sena's attack came against the backdrop of reports that Sood had arranged buses for migrant workers stuck in Mumbai.
'Sood is an actor whose profession is to deliver dialogues scripted by someone else and make a living out of it. There are many people like Sood who would promote any political party if paid well,' Raut said.
He said no wise man would believe in Sood suddenly developing sympathy for labourers and sending them back in large numbers.
Raut, who is the chief whip of the Sena in Parliament and executive editor of Saamana, said, 'the BJP has (politically) adopted Sonu Sood and tried to create an influence among the North Indian migrant workers'.
During the coronavirus crisis, the BJP was struggling to stay politically relevant but faced a severe backlash from people as they did not like frequent criticism of the Thackeray government by leaders of the BJP, he stated.
'The plight of migrant workers also turned many people against the Modi government for its handling of the coronavirus crisis,' Raut stated.
He said it was necessary to find out whether the BJP put a mask of a social worker on Sonu Sood and used him to further its political designs.
'There is a person called Shankar Pawar, who is the head of Rashtriya Banjara Seva Sangh and seen frequently standing behind Sood in various photographs. He has the huge system and network to send people home,' Raut said.
Raut strongly defended the state government, which also comprises the NCP and the Congress, over its handling of the migrant crisis.
'No other state could have treated migrant workers the way they have been taken care of by the Maharashtra government,' he stated.
The government has set up a special unit to streamline the process to transport migrant workers to their native states.
'However, to show the state government's work in poor light, Sood has been deliberately promoted. 'If anyone wants to go home, please contact me' was the appeal of the actor,' Raut wrote.
The senior Sena leader also claimed that Sood had even received an invitation from Maharashtra governor B S Koshyari to laud his work.
'Maharashtra chief secretary Ajoy Mehta should send a detailed list of people and organisations who served relentlessly and selflessly during the coronavirus crisis. Unfortunately, they do not have any political backing to promote their work,' Raut said.
In a swipe at the BJP, Raut said that people might soon here Sood's name in 'Mann Ki Baat' radio programme and him meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi.
'Sood might even visit Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi as a star campaigner for the BJP. When most of the actors were sitting at home, Sonu Sood's acting skills were flourishing,' he stated.
You do not need a screen all the time to show your acting skills as has been demonstrated by 'Mahatma Sood', Raut said.
'Sood's political directors are experts in their field. We will come to know soon about his next political move,' he added.