Congress-NCP playing ‘dirty politics': Thackeray cousins and BJP

Continuing its opposition to the shifting of Dadoji Konddeo's statue from the Lal Mahal monument in Pune, the Shiv Sena has called a bandh in the district for Tuesday. Maharashtra is seeing a bitter political squabble over Konddeo, a Brahmin, believed to be the mentor of the Maratha King Chhatrapati Shivaji.

The Sena is protesting against the removal of Konddeo's statue by the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party-ruled Municipal Corporation. It has hit out at the NCP, a party of the Maratha community, which sees Konddeo's historical portrayal as Shivaji's “guru” as an attempt at instituting Brahminical hegemony.

‘To distract people'

The Bharatiya Janata Party said the entire episode was masterminded by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. “This was being done by the NCP to distract people from other serious issues at hand. Mr. Pawar wants to show who is the boss,” Vinod Tawde of the BJP said. The Sena and the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena accused the Congress-NCP of playing politics with an eye on the civic polls.

Mr. Tawde said a committee of historians could be formed to give some perspective on the issue. He said the BJP was supportive of reservation for Marathas based on socio-economic criteria but it would not support such moves for temporary gains.

Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said in a press statement on Monday: “It's shameful that the corporation moved the statue in the middle of the night – as one would shift a terrorist. We strongly condemn the Corporation's move. Why can't the Congress-NCP show such alacrity in acting against illegal constructions in projects like Lavasa? The NCP is unnecessarily giving importance to the Sambhaji Brigade [a militant Maratha outfit]. To protest against the double standards of the Congress and the NCP, we have called a bandh.”

‘Political intention'

Making common cause with the Sena, Raj Thackeray too flayed the NCP. “Dirty politics is being played in the name of the statue. Elections will be fought on this issue. That is the sole political intention,” he said.

Referring to the ruckus created by the Sambhaji Brigade, the MNS chief said: “Where have these organisations come from? [The NCP] is nurturing such organisations and furthering their agenda through them. Everyone knows that the NCP has nurtured these organisations. Are you going to examine every person and everything through the caste lens? If Dadaji Konddeo were a Maratha, he would have been accepted as Shivaji's guru. [Pandit] Gaga Bhatt, who presided over Shivaji's coronation, was a Brahmin. Are you going to wipe that out from history too? Some Maratha chieftains joined forces with the Moghuls against Chhatrapati Shivaji. What are you going to do about them? Should we give a casteist reading to history?”

He accused the Congress-NCP of projecting a non-issue to deflect attention from the pressing concern over the rising food inflation. “No action was taken against the hoarders. The prices of onions do not shoot up on their own.”

He also flayed the Congress for using Shivaji's name for political gains. “Since when did the Congress, whose leaders usually invoke Phule, Shahu and Ambedkar before their speeches, suddenly start saluting Chhatrapati Shivaji?”

‘Will take to streets'

Asked if his party would be participating in the Sena's protest, he replied: “They get flustered if I have a cup of tea [alluding to his much hyped visit to the State BJP office], how can they accept our participation? We will take to the streets if need be.” He said such controversies were sullying Shivaji's image among people who were unaware of his history. He blamed the government for its inaction against the activists of the Sambhaji Brigade. “They are let off, but when I speak for Maharashtra, my supporters are lathi-charged. Cases are slapped against us.”

Defending historian Babasaheb Purandare, who has written on Shivaji's history, the MNS head said: “Are they going to attack Babasaheb Purandare, who has dedicated a lifetime studying this history, who's kept this history alive? As per the history I know, Shivaji Maharaj was seven when Dadoji Konddeo came into his life.”

Keywords: PuneShiv Senabandh

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