Sounding the Shiv Sena (Shinde faction’s) poll bugle for the coming civic polls across Maharashtra, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Monday lashed out at Sena president Uddhav Thackeray by alleging that the latter had not only deceived his father — the late Sena founder Bal Thackeray — by allying with the Congress, but was responsible for the dwindling Marathi-speaking population in Mumbai city.
Addressing a massive rally in Paithan in Aurangabad district, Mr. Shinde, whose rebel Sena faction is in alliance with the BJP, demanded that Mr. Thackeray, the former Chief Minister, explain to the people of the State why had the Marathi-speaking population moved out of Mumbai.
“If they [Uddhav camp] are so concerned about Mumbai, then why don’t you [Mr. Thackeray] publish how many Marathi-speaking people are left in Mumbai? Have you bothered to analyse why have they been thrown out of Mumbai and have been forced to move to suburbs like Virar and Badlapur? They need to do an analysis of this through Saamana [Thackeray faction’s mouthpiece], but they will not have the courage to do so,” Mr. Shinde said.
The Chief Minister said had Mr. Thackeray understood the plight of Marathi-speaking people, then their percentage would not have declined in Mumbai city.
He claimed that while the Thackeray faction had no qualms about asking votes in the name of Marathi-speaking people, the plight of the latter was ignored once elections got over.
Show of strength
The object behind Mr. Shinde’s show of strength is to challenge the beleaguered Thackeray faction in the latter’s strongholds in the Mumbai and Aurangabad civic bodies, where the Thackeray-led Shiv Sena has held sway for more than two decades.
This time, with Mr. Shinde breaking away with the majority of Sena MLAs and MPs to ally with the BJP, both parties are bent on ending the Thackerays’ supremacy in these two civic bodies.
Targeting Mr. Thackeray by remarking that he would have to account before the public of Maharashtra as to why he deceived Bal Thackeray and drowned his father’s Hindutva ideals by allying with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, Mr. Shinde said: “Today, we have 160 MLAs, but the 2024 Maharashtra Assembly election will see 200 MLAs of the Shiv Sena [Shinde faction]-BJP alliance.”
Remarking that the Uddhav camp today had nothing left but to hurl petty jibes at the Shinde camp, the Chief Minister said his faction would give Mr. Thackeray a fitting reply through their work.
“We don’t need to pay crowds for our rallies,” Mr. Shinde said, alluding to the Thackeray camp’s accusation that the rebel faction was paying people to swell their audience numbers.
Claiming that the ‘beautification’ of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon’s grave had taken place during Mr. Thackeray’s MVA government, Mr. Shinde hit out at the rival Sena camp’s accusation that the rebels were mere ‘handmaidens’ of the BJP.
“Instead of being the handmaidens of traitors like Memon, it is better to be one of Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi and [Union Home Minister] Amit Shah, who had the courage to scrap Article 370 in Kashmir,” said the Chief Minister.