Mumbai: Attempting to project a united front under former Maharashtra chief minister and Shiv Sena faction (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray, the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), at its joint rally in Sambhajinagar (formerly Aurangabad) on Sunday launched a broadside against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chief Minister Eknath Shinde led government in Maharashtra.
Evading the thorny alliance issues like Uddhav Thackeray’s recent criticism of Congressman Rahul Gandhi over the latter’s remarks against Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar and the renaming of Sambhajinagar to Aurangabad, the former chief minister and the MVA leaders including Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)’s Ajit Pawar and Congressman Ashok Chavan instead attacked the BJP and PM Modi for their ‘double standards’ and targeting of opposition leaders throughout the country.
This was the first in a projected series of joint MVA rallies to take place in the State with an eye to the civic and general and Assembly elections. However, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) president Nana Patole was absent from the rally, with sources arguing that he was reportedly unwell.
Uddhav Thackeray, who led the MVA charge, attacked the BJP and the Shinde faction over the meaning of ‘Hindutva’, the Savarkar issue and the BJP’s discrimination against the Muslim community.
“For the last 25 years, we were under an illusion during our alliance with the BJP. Twice our coalition govt (Sena-BJP) had come to power, but Aurangabad could not be renamed as Sambhajinagar. What BJP could not do, our MVA had done it,” remarked Uddhav Thackeray, referring to one of his last cabinet decisions when the MVA had passed the decision to rename Aurangabad and Osmanabad (to Dharashiv).
There had been flash points between Uddhav Thackeray and his Congress allies over the renaming issue when he was CM. However, all MVA leaders were careful in today’s rally to refer to erstwhile ‘Aurangabad’ as ‘Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar’ (after the Maratha king who was murdered by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb).
“Veer Savarkar did not suffer 14 years in the Andamans for Modi to come to power… We (MVA) are determined to preserve the Constitution. The BJP merely wants to divert attention from real issues and hence are persecuting Rahul Gandhi,” remarked Uddhav Thackeray. He further alleged that the BJP did not want to do anything, but merely stoked communal tensions ahead of elections.
Criticizing the ‘Jan Aakrosh’ yatras led by Hindu outfits across the State, he said: “What is the use of Modi’s vaunted strength if such demonstrations are being carried out to express anger of Hindus. When the MVA was in power, neither Hindu nor Muslim needed to vent their ire.”
Arguing that “countless” friends from the Muslim community had attended his recent rally in Malegaon (Nashik), Uddhav Thackeray challenged his detractors to prove how he had discarded Hindutva.
“If you claim that I have left ‘Hindutva’ by going along with the Congress, then what about you (BJP) who had formed a government with PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti in Kashmir in the past. The BJP does not have the right to decide who is a true ‘Hindu’ or who is a ‘traitor’ as per their convenience,” he added.
Remarking that his (Sena UBT faction) notion of ‘Hindutva’ was patriotic, Uddhav Thackeray ticked-off the BJP’s claims of a ‘purer’ Hindutva, remarking that the BJP’s ideal meant ruthlessly unleashing central agencies to harass opposition leaders from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
Thackeray further added, “Opposition leaders from Kashmir to Kanyakumari are being harassed, put in jail. PM Modi claims the opposition is trying to defame him, then what about us? If we even make the slightest protest, then Central agencies are let loose upon us.” He dubbed the present BJP as a “party of corrupt people which poaches corrupt leaders from other parties.”
Stating that his former political adversaries, the Congress and the NCP, had stood by him in his hour of crisis, Thackeray remarked that the BJP only believed in the ‘use and throw’ principle while daring them to contest future elections under Eknath Shinde’s leadership in Maharashtra.
“Who is with the BJP today? You (BJP) have broken all regional parties who used to be your allies…today, you have split the Sena, taken away the party name and symbol and are even trying to steal my father’s (Balasaheb Thackeray’s) name…But I’m not going to leave my father’s name. If you people (BJP-Shinde Sena) have the guts, then try and contest elections on PM Modi’s name. I will take my father’s name and fight you,” he further said.
Both, Uddhav Thackeray and NCP leader Ajit Pawar said that while the BJP could take out a ‘Savarkar Gaurav Yatra’ to celebrate the Hindutva ideologue, they questioned the BJP’s ‘double standards’ in failing to condemn ex-Maharashtra Governor B.S. Koshyari for allegedly ‘insulting’ Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Jyotirao Phule and other great personages of Maharashtra.
“We have respect for all great men including Savarkar. We have no opposition to you taking out Savarkar Gaurav Yatra…but how is it you’ll failed to criticize the former Governor for insulting Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj,” remarked Ajit Pawar. The senior NCP leader further said that if the BJP indeed respected Savarkar as it claimed, then why had it not yet announced the Bharat Ratna for him.
Lauding Uddhav Thackeray’s “magnanimity” when he was the chief minister of the MVA government, ex-CM and Congress leader Ashok Chavan urged the audience not to forgive those (Shinde-BJP) who toppled Uddhav Thackeray led MVA government and were now “persecuting” Rahul Gandhi by disqualifying him from Parliament.