In Saamana interview, Uddhav Thackeray lashes out at betrayal by the Shinde camp, accuses BJP-led Centre of trying to divide Shiv Sena
Mumbai: Amidst the ongoing ‘political war’ over control of the party between the two Shiv Sena factions, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who led the intra-party revolt last month bringing down the Uddhav Thackeray led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, on Wednesday taking to Twitter greeted Uddhav Thackeray on occasion of the latter’s 62nd birthday.
Both, the rebel Sena leader, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis wished Uddhav Thackeray “a long and healthy life” in their respective tweets, the duo pointedly referred to Uddhav Thackeray as ‘former Maharashtra Chief Minister’ and not as ‘Shiv Sena party chief.’
In sharp contrast, Uddhav Thackeray’s ally in the MVA, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar did greet Uddhav Thackeray as the ‘Shiv Sena chief’.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s tweet came a day after Uddhav Thackeray launched a scathing attack against what he called the ‘betrayal’ by the rebel Sena MPs and MLAs as well as the BJP, in a two-part interview in the party’s mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, with Sena MP and Uddhav camp loyalist Sanjay Raut.
In the interview, which was published to coincide with his birthday, Uddhav Thackeray compared the 50 rebel MLAs (and 12 MPs) of the Shinde with “rotten leaves that had been shed for the benefit of the tree (the Shiv Sena).”
In his interview with Sanjay Raut, Uddhav Thackeray replied to all allegations made by the rebel camp. Stating that the rebel camp led by Eknath Shinde took undue advantage of his surgery and prolonged illness, Uddhav Thackeray remarked that he felt so infirm for a while that he could not even move.
Uddhav Thackeray in his interview remarked, “I will always live with this painful reality (revolt by the 50 MLAs) … I entrusted someone (alluding to Eknath Shinde) with the party, and gave him the ‘number 2’ status, but he broke that trust. And that too when I was in hospital.”
Stating that while some people were praying for his recovery, others were praying that he (Uddhav Thackeray) remained ill. The former chief minister issued a direct warning to the Shinde faction against using the name of his father, the late Sena founder Bal Thackeray to justify their revolt. Uddhav Thackeray further remarked, “I dare them to try and separate the Shiv Sena from the Thackeray’s’… they (the Shinde camp) ought to take the blessings of their parents and campaign, give speeches and seek votes. Why try to steal my father from me? You’ll (the rebel faction) have no dedication, no sense of duty, no courage… You are traitors.”
Announcing his plans to embark on a state-wide tour soon to rebuild his party with the aim to retain his hold over the cadre, the Sena chief accused the BJP-led Centre of trying to divide the Shiv Sena.
He alleged further, “Delhi wants to instigate a Sena versus Sena fight and divide the Marathi-speaking people. If the present rulers (Modi government) fear the opposition, it reflects their inefficiency.”
Meanwhile, despite the rebel MLAs and MPs greeting Uddhav Thackeray on occasion of his birthday, their advertisements wishing Uddhav Thackeray in the party’s mouthpiece ‘Saamana’, which feature each year as a matter of course, were not surprisingly rejected this time.
Some rebel MLAs like former minister Gulabrao Patil did refer to Uddhav Thackeray as ‘Shiv Sena chief’ in their greetings, a number of others alluded to him as merely ‘former Chief Minister of Maharashtra’.
As the Thackeray and the Shinde camps now embroiled in legal battles over control of the party (including the Sena’s iconic election symbol the ‘bow and arrow’), a long line of Shiv Sena workers from across Maharashtra converged upon ‘Matoshree’ (the Thackeray family’s private residence) to pay their respects to Uddhav Thackeray and show solidarity with him.
Most of the cadres who came to Matoshree argued that they stood firm with Uddhav Thackeray and regarded him as their party chief and the true political heir of late Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray. A number of Shiv Sainiks on the occasion even submitted affidavits pledging their loyalty to Uddhav Thackeray.