Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday dispelled any impression that he was not enthusiastic about Narendra Modi as Prime Ministerial candidate, saying he has already given his “best wishes” to him after he was appointed the BJP campaign chief for the Lok Sabha elections.
“What I had said yesterday about the country needing a reliable face was in the context of Congress which is currently ruling. I was talking about the Congress,” he told reporters blaming the media for allegedly misinterpreting his remarks.
Replying to a query, Mr. Thackeray made it clear that Hindutva issues like Ram temple were unlikely to take prominence in the opposition campaign as there was need to focus on the “burning problems” faced by the common man due to the “Congress misrule.”
Mr. Thackeray, on his first visit to the national capital after Mr. Modi gained centre stage in the BJP, said at the outset that when the Gujarat Chief Minister came to his residence after becoming the campaign chief, he had extended his “best wishes”.
“Why I should clarify on things which I have not said in my speech (on Friday). The media is also a responsible part of society,” he said, adding “that only you people say that Uddhav has made a U turn.”
Addressing a press conference after his meetings with L.K. Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Sushma Swaraj on Friday, he said that it was for the BJP parliamentary Board to first decide on the Prime Ministerial candidate and then consult allies like Shiv Sena and Akali Dal.
“It is not a hidden fact that due procedure will be followed,” he said sidestepping all questions on the leadership issue.
To a question about Shiv Sena’s support to Sushma Swaraj as the PM candidate when Bal Thackeray was alive, he said when his father spoke of the issue no other leader’s name was doing the rounds.
He said the decision about the PM candidate is to be taken “within four walls” and suggested that he does not want to complicate matters by making any remarks.
Mr. Thackeray took a dig at a reporter seeking replies on questions over the PM candidate of the opposition. “Oh, you are more emotional than me. But I know very well the mantra given to me by my father.”
He brushed aside a question that editorials in the Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ reflected the dilemma of his party over Mr. Modi. “If someone has this impression, then he does not understand Marathi,” he said.
He was also dismissive of a question that whether the next polls would be a Rahul Gandhi Vs Narendra Modi affair.
“Get over all these things. Talk of corruption, unemployment, slide of Rupee despite the Prime Minister being an economist. Now even the idols of god are being imported like leaders,” he said in an apparent dig at Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
He also criticised the Food Security Bill, saying it was aimed at elections. He wanted to know what the government has done for the security of the farmers in the wake of growing incidents of suicides.
“Why it has not been done in the last so many years,” he asked.
The Shiv Sena chief, whose party is the oldest ideological ally of the BJP, said that issues of Hindutva would not find prominence given the changed scenario where use of religion attracts disqualification.
At the same time, he wondered how can Hindu nationalism be a matter of a debate and what was wrong if one says that he was a Hindu nationalist.
The remark was in apparent support to Mr. Modi, who had recently described himself as a Hindu nationalist.
To another question, he said that BJP had never stepped back on the Hindutva issue.
Asked who could be the new allies of the BJP-led NDA, which now only consists of Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, he parried a direct answer but spoke of a possible wave in favour of the Opposition alliance as “people are fed up“.
He dismissed suggestions that his Delhi trip was to get the convenorship of NDA. He said his talks with BJP leaders were more of a “family affair” in which his wife and son were also present.