Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Sunday argued that an insult to Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (V. D. Savarkar) was like insulting all freedom fighters as well as the country. Shinde and his Shiv Sena faction and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) kicked-off the ‘Savarkar Gaurav Yatra’ across the State to celebrate Savarkar’s contributions and to protest Congressman Rahul Gandhi’s criticism of the revered freedom fighter.
The Chief Minister accompanied by the BJP and his Shiv Sena faction leaders, spearheaded the charge in his bastion Thane in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), with ruling party activists raising slogans of ‘Savarkar ji ke saaman me, Hindustan maidan me’ (the whole of India has hit the streets to respect Savarkar).
While CM Shinde and the BJP’s show of strength was ostensibly against Rahul Gandhi’s repeated anti-Savarkar remarks and the Congress party, the real target was to expose the ‘compromised ‘Hindutva of former chief minister and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray, and his alliance with the ideologically opposed Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
With an eye to the ensuing civic polls and the 2024 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, Eknath Shinde lashed out at Uddhav Thackeray was for sticking on with the ideological opposed Congress and the NCP as a constituent of the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde remarked, “This Yatra is a fitting reply to those who keep criticizing and insulting Veer Savarkar. The message through this is that Maharashtra will never tolerate any insults against Savarkar…insulting Savarkar is tantamount to insulting the country and all freedom fighters and their contribution to India’s independence. Savarkar was an exemplar of Hindutva’s purest ideals and yet, Rahul Gandhi and the Congress deliberately continue to disparage him.”
Leaders and ruling party cadres donned caps bearing the legend ‘Mi Savarkar’ (I am Savarkar) while BJP leader and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis and several other BJP leaders changed their social media profiles to the same legend.
Lambasting Uddhav Thackeray, CM Shinde said that when Congressman Mani Shankar Aiyar had allegedly ‘insulted’ Savarkar (in 2004), late Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray had called for Mani Shankar Aiyar’s effigy to be beaten with footwear.
“And yet today, his son (Uddhav Thackeray) is sitting side by side with those (Congress leaders) who have repeatedly insulted Savarkar and Balasaheb Thackeray’s grandson (Aaditya Thackeray) is embracing Rahul Gandhi. This is a hurtful scene and unfortunate for Maharashtra,” CM Shinde remarked.
He demanded to know why Uddhav Thackeray lacked the courage to unequivocally condemn Rahul Gandhi. Shinde further said that the MVA’s union was merely for the sake of power, and had no ideological basis unlike the BJP and Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sena of earlier times.
“People had given us (BJP-Sena) a mandate after the 2019 Assembly elections. But you (Uddhav Thackeray) had forsaken all that. Balasaheb’s ideals have long been jettisoned by you. Now, it is only ‘me and my family’ for you (Uddhav Thackeray) while true Sena workers have been abandoned,” added CM Shinde.
Condemning Rahul Gandhi, the Chief Minister rhetorically asked if the Congressman had the courage to endure tortures as Savarkar did in Andaman’s Cellular Jail.
It may be recalled that Uddhav Thackeray, at his recent rally in Nashik’s Malegaon, had rebuked Rahul Gandhi for his anti-Savarkar statements, remarking that the Sena (UBT) regarded Savarkar as “a deity” and would “not tolerate any insult” against him. However, the Shinde faction and the BJP had dubbed Uddhav Thackeray’s condemnation of Rahul Gandhi as “insincere.”
Incidentally, NCP chief Sharad Pawar while speaking in Nagpur, too, delivered a veiled rebuke to Rahul Gandhi by stating that the Savarkar issue was “a thing of the past” and not a national issue. “We may have said a few things against Savarkar but it was not personal. We cannot ignore the sacrifice made by Savarkar for the independence of the country,” Sharad Pawar said.