Other States

Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena lambast Raj Thackeray, call him BJP’s ‘dummy’

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena  president Raj Thackeray, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar. File

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar. File | Photo Credit: Prakash Yeram

A day after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray’s vitriolic assault on the ruling Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), NCP chief Sharad Pawar took jibes at Mr. Thackeray, remarking there was no consistency in his political disposition while slamming the MNS leader’s allegations of the NCP being a “casteist party”.

Speaking in Kolhapur, Mr. Pawar said that the NCP was one of the few political parties in the country with a vision to give opportunities to people of all castes, communities and tribes.

In his speech on the occasion of Gudi Padwa on Saturday, the MNS chief had sharply rebuked the NCP before a jam-packed audience at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park for allegedly sowing the seeds of caste politics in Maharashtra while accusing Mr. Pawar’s party of “running rings around” the two leading parties in the State, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena, led by his [Mr. Raj Thackeray’s] estranged cousin, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

The NCP shares power with the Shiv Sena and the Congress in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition in Maharashtra, which was formed after the October 2019 Maharashtra Assembly election with the objective of keeping the BJP out of power.

Mocking Mr. Raj Thackeray, Mr. Pawar said: “He goes underground for three-four months, then resurfaces to give a speech and then disappears again. He lacks any political consistency. His party numbers can be counted on the fingers of a hand.”

Remarking that he failed to understand what the MNS chief had seen worth praising in the Uttar Pradesh Government (led by BJP CM Yogi Adityanath), Mr. Pawar said that it had escaped Mr. Thackeray’s notice that farmers had been killed in U.P. and there were mass farmer protests against the Centre there.

“The reason why the election results turned out different [referring to the BJP’s emphatic win] is another matter…but farmers died in Lakhimpur Kheri, there were protests on the border all year round. Uddhav Thackeray’s government in Maharashtra would never have allowed this to happen. Yet, if Raj Thackeray says the U.P. government is good, then I don’t want to comment on him,” said the NCP chief, tartly remarking there were “no limits” to what Raj Thackeray could say.  

After lambasting the NCP, the MNS chief vented his spleen on the Sena, attacking it for ‘betraying” the public’s mandate after the 2019 Assembly election by allying with the ideologically opposed NCP and Congress and severing ties with its long-standing natural ally, the BJP. The Sena had severed its 25-year-old alliance with the BJP after the two saffron partners fell out over the CM’s post.  

“He [Uddhav Thackeray] never told the public anything that the BJP had promised him the CM’s post after elections [in 2019]. Even Prime Minister Modi had said that the CM would be from the BJP and that it would be Devendra Fadnavis. Even [Union Home Minister] Amit Shah had stressed the same thing. At that time, you [Uddhav Thackeray] hadn’t said a thing and sat quietly on the dais. It was only later that plaintive notes of the BJP’s ‘betrayal’ [in not giving Uddhav Thackeray the CM’s post] were struck,” Mr. Raj Thackeray said.

After Mr. Thackeray’s speech, criticism rained on the MNS chief from NCP and Shiv Sena leaders.

NCP State president Jayant Patil said the speech was Raj Thackeray’s attempt to cannibalise the Sena’s votes in the forthcoming Mumbai civic body election.

“There is an internal setting between the BJP and the MNS. Since the BJP cannot take on the Sena in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) alone, they are deploying their ‘B-teams’ like the MNS and the AIMIM (All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen) to cut the Sena’s votes,” Mr. Patil alleged.

Sena MP Sanjay Raut, the party’s chief spokesperson, said Mr. Raj Thackeray’s address only proved conclusively that the MNS chief was the BJP’s “dummy”.  

“His speeches are only designed to get claps, and that too, sponsored ones,” Mr. Raut said.

Dubbing the MNS as the BJP’s “C-team”, Sena leader Manisha Kayande castigated the MNS chief by remarking that one could not hope to win people’s hearts merely by indulging in crass mimicry and lampooning.

Once a major powerbroker in Maharashtra, the decline and fall of the MNS in Maharashtra started with the twin debacles in the 2014 parliamentary and Assembly elections which left the party in utter disarray. Its woes were compounded following its total rout in the civic polls held in February 2017, causing many to write Mr. Thackeray and the MNS off as a major political force in the State.

While his party did not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Mr. Thackeray’s spirited campaigning for the Congress and the NCP in the general election came a cropper, with the candidates of then allies — the BJP and the Sena — winning with huge margins in the very constituencies the MNS chief held his rallies.

In the 2019 Assembly election, Mr. Thackeray finally entered the poll arena and contested on 100 seats, winning only one (Kalyan Rural).

After spiritedly campaigning against the BJP in the Lok Sabha election last year, the MNS’ change of ideological direction came with its adoption of a saffron flag incorporating Chhatrapati Shivaji’s royal seal or ‘Rajmudra’ in 2020.

Since then, Mr. Raj Thackeray’s party has inched ever closer to the BJP in an attempt on the MNS’ part to seize the Hindutva space from the Sena following the latter’s alliance with the NCP and the Congress. His speech on Saturday, advocating hardline Hindutva, is yet another chapter in the MNS’ new innings.

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Printable version | Sep 10, 2022 2:39:38 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/sharad-pawar-shiv-sena-lambast-raj-thackeray-call-him-bjps-dummy/article65286724.ece