The fight for the legacy of Shiv Sena between the warring factions of Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde reached a crescendo with the “show of strength” at the Dasara rallies barely 6 km apart from one another in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Significantly, the common factor in the speeches delivered by Mr. Uddhav and Mr. Shinde was Hindutva, betrayal, dynastic succession and who inherited the true ideals and values espoused by party patriarch Bal Thackeray.
Mr. Uddhav, who addressed the rally at traditional Shivtirth (Shivaji Park), called his former party colleagues in Shinde’s camp ‘traitors’
The Chief Minister hits back at him and said that he is not a traitor and the huge crowds, at Bandra Kurla Complex, where he was addressing his supporters, proved who the real Shiv Sainiks are. “Go and kneel down at Balasaheb’s memorial and apologise for betraying the people of Maharashtra,” he said.
Asserting that the Shiv Sena was “not a private limited company”, Mr. Shinde hit out at the 62-year-old Thackeray over his claims, and said the “real” Shiv Sena question had been settled looking at the massive crowds here.
Mr. Uddhav called Shinde’s faction a group of parasites who do not have an identity or their own roots and cannot aim to be a big tree. “The roots of a giant tree are rooted deep into the soil. That is how we (his camp) are. Parasites can never damage the roots. Ministers are for time being, but the scars of traitor will remain with you forever,” he said.
Comparing rebel Sena leaders with the famous character in the Bahubali movie ‘Katappa’, Mr. Uddhav said people whom he trusted with the responsibilities when he was hospitalised became ‘Katappa’ and betrayed him. “This is the only thing I feel bad and angry about. When I was in the hospital, they thought I would never come back,” he said.
Interspersed with jibes at the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, and ‘the appeasement towards traitors and divisive forces’, Mr. Shinde alleged that Mr. Uddhav’s ‘compromises’ were totally in opposition to the ideals preached and practised by Balsaheb.
Comment | A Sena versus Sena show of strength
About 60,000 Shiv Sainiks were at Shivtirth for Uddhav Thackeray’s rally, while nearly 80,000 were present at Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s rally.
What caught the eyes of Shiv Sainiks at BKC was Bal Thackeray’s son Jaidev Thackeray sharing the stage with Mr. Shinde and other rebel leaders. Mr. Jaidev Thackeray’s estranged wife Smita was also present at the rally, along with Nihar, son of the late Bindumadhav Thackeray, Mr. Uddhav’s eldest brother.
Over the claim as to who inherits the true legacy of Bal Thackeray, Mr. Eknath said “this Shiv Sena belongs to neither Uddhav Thackeray nor Eknath Shinde, but to millions of Shiv Sainkis who carry on the ideals of Balasaheb Thackeray. We are real followers of Balasaheb ideology.”
Further taking a dig at Mr. Uddhav, he said “you disgraced real Shiv Sainiks. I am not a traitor. You are the real traitor. Maharashtra voters elected you and BJP in Assembly elections, but you betrayed people by allying with Congress and NCP.”
In his marathon speech, the Chief Minister also recalled several failures of the Uddhav Thackery-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government, including complete neglect of health services and failure in providing Medicare to the citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Uddhav attacked the BJP and said that the country was going towards dictatorship and slavery. “They want to whip out regional parties and kill the democracy. Will you be okay with that? Will you become their slaves,” he asks the crowd.
Further, he challenged the Shinde faction to come on one stage and have a debate with him about Hindutva without referring to the BJP’s script. “Alliance with the Congress and the NCP doesn’t mean I abandoned Hindutva. I’m very clear about my ideology and my father’s teachings.”
Hitting out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, the Mr. Uddhav said, “during his visit to Mumbai, Amit Shah said they will show Shiv Sena its place. I want you to first win the PoK and stop China’s entry into the country, then show us our ground.”
“Your leader goes to Pakistan uninvited on Nawaz Sharif’s birthday. I don’t need to learn about Hindutva from you,” he said.
After Mr. Thackeray ended his 42-minute speech, a Ravan effigy reading ‘ 50 khohke’, a reference to the allegations that Shinde camp leaders got ₹50 crore each from BJP to shift the loyalty, was burnt at Shivtirth.
For the first time since 1966, Shiv Sena’s annual Dasara rally was split into two claiming who holds the real mantle of Hindutva and Bal Thackeray’s legacy.