Stung by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ sharp comment that the black paint attack on chairman of the Observer Research Foundation, Sudheendra Kulkarni, had brought a bad name to Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena on Tuesday dared the BJP to walk out of the alliance if it disagreed with the party’s patriotic credentials.
“It must be clarified how the Sena has brought Maharashtra into disrepute. Why are we being asked if we will quit the alliance government? If our nationalist approach is stinging you, then you quit the government,” said a combative Sanjay Raut, senior Shiv Sena leader and executive editor of party’s mouthpiece Saamana .
Linking 26/11 terror attacks to the former Pakistan Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s Mumbai visit, Mr. Raut said: “The Chief Minister should have imposed a ban on Monday’s programme [Mr. Kasuri’s book launch], but that did not happen.” Justifying the paint attack on Mr. Kulkarni, and felicitation of six Shiv Sainiks arrested for the crime by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Mr. Raut said: “What crime has Shiv Sena committed by fighting Pakistan? There is nothing wrong in honouring our Shiv Sainiks who fought Pakistan.”
Mr. Fadnavis expressed his disapproval of the Sena’s form of protest. “I think the way things have happened has brought a bad name to our State,” he said.
Shiv Sena likens Kulkarni to Ajmal Kasab
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ criticism of the Shiv Sena’s attack on chairman of the Observer Research Foundation, Sudheendra Kulkarni, had upset the BJP’s ally.
Hurt by Mr. Fadnavis’ remarks, the Sena wrote a stinging editorial in Tuesday’s Saamana. Likening Mr. Kulkarni to Ajmal Kasab, the edit said: “The real threat to the sovereignty of our nation is not from extremists or terrorists, but people like Kulkarni ... When there are people like him present here, Pakistan does not need to send people like Kasab for terrorist activities.”
“An atmosphere has been created where it now seems that [former Pakistan Foreign Minister] Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri is a messenger of peace or a Mahatma and the Sena has committed a crime by opposing him. However much we are criticised and maligned, we will not change our stand against Pakistan,” it said.
Sensing a possible confrontation with Sena Ministers, Mr. Fadnavis went to the extent of cancelling the scheduled Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning. While ‘technical problem’ was the reason officially cited by the CM’s Office for the cancellation, sources indicate that the BJP wanted to avoid the possible confrontation between the ministers of both the parties after two big controversies — Mr. Kasuri’s book launch event and Sena president Uddhav Thackeray skipping the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Mr. Raut, who is the Rajya Sabha MP, fired a fresh salvo at Mr. Fadnavis stating that the CM had not understood Maharashtra and its ethos. “It is because of CM’s statement and pro-Pak stand that the State has been defamed.”
As speculation over whether the Sena will pull out of the government continued throughout Tuesday, the Sena further tried to justify its actions by inviting six Shiv Sainiks arrested for the paint attack on Mr. Kulkarni. Shiv Sena shakha pramukh Gajanan Patil, Dinesh Prasad, Ashok Waghmare, Prakash Husbe, Samadhan Jadhav and Venkatesh Nair — who were booked under bailable offences, and were given bail minutes after their arrest — were felicitated by Mr. Thackeray.
Mr. Kulkarni, who was dubbed a Pakistani agent and likened to 26/11 attacker Kasab by the Sena, said “I have been labelled a Pakistani agent in Sena mouthpiece Saamana. I respect their freedom of expression. They should also respect others’ freedom of expression.”
The Observer Research Foundation chairperson said: “When they say I am a Pakistani agent, I say yes, I am an agent but an agent of peace and will continue to be one.”
Visits Mani Bhavan
Meanwhile, Mr. Kasuri continued his Mumbai visit amid tight security, and visited the iconic Mani Bhavan and Jinnah House. He also visited thespian Dilip Kumar’s house in Bandra. “There were three people who worked for peace between India and Pakistan — Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Dilip Kumar. So I visited these places and connected with them,” he said.