Firmly reaffirming the Shiv Sena’s Hindutva credentials, Shiv Sena president and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday launched a broadside at the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at a mega party rally in Aurangabad.
He chastised the BJP for failing to protect Kashmiri pandits while stating that the latter, once the Shiv Sena’s long-time ally, could capture power in Delhi (the Centre) only because of the help rendered by the late Sena founder Bal Thackeray.
Mr. Thackeray further said that the late Bal Thackeray had never exhorted the Sena and its activists to hate Muslims nor did Shiv Sena preach hatred towards other religions.
Mr. Thackeray, addressing his first public event outside Mumbai after more than six months, hit out at the BJP, particularly former CM Devendra Fadnavis, by stressing the Shiv Sena’s contribution in the Babri Mosque demolition and said that the BJP was no one to teach or measure the Sena’s Hindutva.
“Whom are you teaching Hindutva? You would not have been able to take Delhi without Bal Thackeray and the Sena’s help…If you [the BJP] are real men, then go and protect Kashmiri Pandits and Hindus in the Valley, 27 of whom have lost their lives in the last two months. But no spokesperson of the BJP is willing to speak on this. On the other hand, I, as CM of Maharashtra, have promised them to do everything I can in my power,” the Sena chief said, remarking: “Hindutva is not about wearing saffron caps, but one should have Hindutva in one’s minds.”
Commenting on ex-BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma insulting Prophet Muhammad, Mr. Thackeray said that a BJP spokesperson cannot be the country’s spokesperson nor can the BJP’s stance be the country’s stance.
“Today, because of such unwarranted remarks by a nondescript spokesperson, the Arab countries have ganged up against India and the Prime Minister’s pictures are being thrown into dustbins at some places. This is an insult to the PM’s post and the country’s honour. It only proves a BJP spokesperson cannot be the country’s spokesperson nor can the BJP’s stance be the country’s stance,” the Maharashtra CM said.
Mr. Thackeray said that as prices of essential commodities had skyrocketed, the BJP, to cover its ineptness at handling economic crises, was bent on searching for shivlings under the Taj Mahal and the Gyanvapi mosque. He lauded Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statements urging restraint over the Gyanvapi controversy.
The Maharashtra CM cannily sidestepped the issue of announcing the official renaming of Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar (after Chhatrapati Sambhaji, who was brutally murdered by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb). The BJP and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) led by Raj Thackeray (Mr. Uddhav’s estranged cousin) have frequently taunted the Sena for dithering over implementing the name change ever since its ideologically opposed alliance with the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in late 2019.
“The BJP picks on such issues only because they are out of power. Bal Thackeray had first made this promise [of renaming Aurangabad to Sambhajinagar] in 1988. Now, will the BJP remind us? Rest assured, I will rename the city to Sambhajinagar, but I want my Sambhajinagar to be renamed only after we have provided amenities, given water supply and improved infrastructure,” Mr. Thackeray said.
He pointedly narrated the tale of the abduction and killing of Indian Army rifleman Aurangzeb by terrorists in south Kashmir’s Shopian district in 2018, stating that the Shiv Sena respected and welcomed all those who gave their lives for the motherland, regardless of religion or caste.
The CM, whose address inaugurated the Sena’s campaign for the upcoming civic polls, said that while he could effect a name change right now, he questioned the pointlessness of the exercise if Aurangabad still remained deprived of basic amenities.
Taking on the BJP, he said that despite the MVA Cabinet approving a proposal to rename the Aurangabad airport to Chhatrapati Sambhaji Airport and the proposal having been submitted to the Centre, the BJP government had yet to act on it.
“Instead of criticising the Sena, why cannot Maharashtra BJP leaders put pressure on the Centre to rename Aurangabad airport?” Mr. Thackeray questioned.
Commenting on the BJP’s “betrayal” of the Sena, he said it was ironic that the parties [Congress and NCP] against which the Sena had fought had given it respect, while the BJP, with whom the Sena had been friends for 25-30 years, were now incorrigibly hostile towards the Shiv Sena.