It is time for the Bharatiya Janata Party to re-think its decades-old ties with the Shiv Sena, party general secretary Vinay Katiyar said here on Tuesday.

His remark was almost immediately approved by the party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy who said as a senior party leader Mr. Katiyar had every right to express his views on a matter that seriously concerns national integration. He further reiterated the party position as clarified by the president Nitin Gadkari, who on Monday, had said the Constitution gave the right to every Indian to live and earn his livelihood in any part of the country.

The “Mumbai belongs to all” snub to the Shiv Sena and its breakaway outfit the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has been administered by the Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and, more importantly, by the Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi who has been camping in Bihar. It was then that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat joined the issue followed quickly by the BJP president Nitin Gadkari.

The ‘Mumbai belongs to all’ cry was also heard from Davos where industrialist Mukesh Ambani made that point, thus directly attacking the ‘Marathi Manoos’ line taken by the Sena and the MNS.

Congress backtracks

Recently, the Congress-led Maharashtra government had to quickly go into reverse gear after reiterating an old law regulating issue of taxi driver licences in Mumbai requiring them to be domiciled in Maharashtra for 15 years and being proficient in Marathi.

The issue, party leaders admit, concerns the whole of India and cannot be seen through the lens of one State election in Bihar due later this year. But, there is no doubt that the politics in Bihar is what is now dictating the categorical statements countering the Sena position that are now coming from the Congress and the BJP.

‘Local language must prevail’

“Language cannot be the basis for discriminating against North Indians or South Indians. Yes, in every region the local language must prevail and get pride of place. But language cannot be the basis for attacking people, assaulting them or burning their business establishments. We cannot compromise on the issue of national integration,” Mr. Katiyar continued.

The BJP, which feels, its electoral base in Bihar may have shrunk with Mr. Gandhi successfully reviving Bihari interest in the grand old party, cannot afford to be seen as a cosy Sena partner when the Sena is seen attacking Biharis in Mumbai, party leaders admit. But, they also add, unlike the Sena, the BJP is a national party and simply cannot afford to project such narrow regional interests without a national vision.

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