Uddhav Thackeray bats for ‘inclusive Hindutva’ at Konkan rally, says Muslims, Christians joining him to fight ‘dictatorship’

In a veiled jibe at the BJP, Mr. Thackeray said his party’s Hindutva stood for all those who were filling to fight for the country

February 05, 2024 10:42 pm | Updated 10:42 pm IST - Pune

Shiv Sena (UBT) Chief Uddhav Thackeray addresses the supporters, at Chiplun in Ratnagiri district on Feb 5, 2024.

Shiv Sena (UBT) Chief Uddhav Thackeray addresses the supporters, at Chiplun in Ratnagiri district on Feb 5, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Stating that the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) faction’s brand of Hindutva was an inclusive one and not one that stirred religious discord between communities, former Maharashtra Chief Minister and Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray on Monday claimed that Muslims and Christians were joining his party to fight the shadow of dictatorship that was allegedly hovering over the country.

The former CM, who was addressing rallies at Rajapur and Chiplun (in Ratnagiri district) on the second day of his tour of the Konkan region, attacked the rival Shiv Sena faction led by present CM Eknath Shinde and the ruling BJP, accusing them of unleashing probe agencies to harass leaders of the Sena (UBT).

Speaking in Rajapur, Mr. Thackeray said, “I see saffron caps here as well as people form the Muslim community. There is Chhatrapati Shivaji’s statue here as well as a dargah. When I was in Raigad recently, Muslims there presented me with a copy of the Quran in Marathi. They have understood the meaning of our Hindutva. I am saying again that our brand of Hindutva is not one that creates religious discord or sets fire to relations between two communities. It is an inclusive one.”

In a veiled jibe at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s version of Hindutva, Mr. Thackeray said his party’s Hindutva stood for all those who were filling to fight and die for the country.

“While the Hindu community stands behind me, this time even Muslims and Christians are joining me. I am appealing to all people to leave religion and caste aside, and come together as patriots to fight this danger of dictatorship that is hovering over this country,” Mr. Thackeray, who was accompanied by his wife Rashmi, said.

He targeted the Shinde government in the State as well as the BJP-ruled Central government for harassing loyal Sena (UBT) leaders, MLAs Rajan Salvi and Ravindra Waikar.

Last month, the Maharashtra Anti-Corruption Bureau had raided multiple properties belonging to Mr. Salvi, a three-term MLA form the Rajapur Assembly seat, and had filed a case against him and his wife and son for allegedly amassing disproportionate assets. The ED teams raided seven locations in Mumbai including properties belonging to Mr. Waikar and some of his business partners.

Mr. Waikar, an MLA from Mumbai’s Jogeshwari East Assembly constituency, has been under the Enforcement Directorate’s scanner since last year, being booked by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act for allegedly defrauding the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) of ₹500 crore by obtaining permission to build a five-star hotel on a plot reserved for a BMC playground.

“I have come here to pat Rajan Salvi’s back and thank him for remaining unbowed before the pressure of agencies. It is only during times of crisis that we understand who truly is with us. They can unleash the ED on Ravindra Waikar or Rajan Salvi, but they will never bend,” Mr. Thackeray, whose Maha Vikas Aghadi government was brought down by Mr. Shinde’s revolt in June 2022, said.

Despite the majority of MLAs (40 of a total 54) and MPs (13 of 19) switching sides to join Mr. Shinde’s faction after his revolt, Mr. Thackeray still retains considerable strength in the Konkan belt, especially the Sindhudurg and Ratnagiri districts where his core group of supporters - MP Vinayak Raut and legislators Bhaskar Jadhav, Rajan Salvi, and Vaibhav Naik are concentrated.

The sitting MP of Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Lok Sabha constituency is Vinayak Raut, a staunch Thackeray loyalist.

The tour comes at a time when power of Mr. Thackeray’s bitterest adversary in the Konkan – former strongman, Union Minister and BJP leader Narayan Rane – is on the wane.

There is further discord in the Shinde Sena camp with rumours that Kiran Samant, the brother of Maharashtra Industries Minister Uday Samant, who is eager to be the ruling Mahayuti’s candidate for Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, could change sides if he were not given a ticket.

Meanwhile, speaking on the recent case of BJP MLA Ganpat Gaikwad shooting Shinde Sena leader Mahesh Gaikwad inside a police station in Thane, Mr. Thackeray said that while he did not support Ganpat Gaikwad, the police must take cognisance of his statements.

“A BJP MLA, who shot a leader of the Shinde camp, made a statement accusing the CM of having amassed illicit crores of rupees. Why isn’t the police taking cognisance of this? On hand, raids are being mounted on Arvind Kejriwal’s house, and back here, at the homes of my party loyalists. Then, why not on Eknath Shinde’s home?” he asked.

Mr. Thackeray said the condition of the BJP legislators had become so pitiable that they were forced to take up a gun to resolve their issues.

“I want to ask them [BJP MLAs] for whom are they working? [rebuke to CM Shinde] I am not taking Ganpat Gaikwad’s side, but the police should explain why he was driven to such extremes,” Mr. Thackeray said.

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