BJP, Sena to take to the streets

NEW DELHI, JULY 20. The BJP and the Shiv Sena today jointly announced their decision to ``take to the streets of Mumbai'' their struggle against what they describe as ``illegal'' attempts by the Maharashtra Government to foist a seven-year old case against the Shiv Sena chief, Mr. Bal Thackeray, for instigating communal hatred through his writings in the Sena's official mouthpiece, Saamna.

This afternoon, senior BJP leaders were still trying to somewhat distance the party from the happenings in Maharashtra - ``It is a matter primarily between the Maharashtra Government and the Shiv Sena,'' the BJP vice-president, Mr. Jana Krishnamurthi, said. But an hour earlier, Mr. Ram Naik, Petroleum Minister and senior-most BJP MP from Maharashtra, addressed a joint press conference along with Mr. Anant Geete, Shiv Sena parliamentary party leader, to say the two parties would together ``take to the streets of Mumbai'' the fight against the ``unjust attempts'' of the Congress(I)-Nationalist Congress Party Government in Maharashtra to get Mr. Thackeray convicted in a criminal case.

The ``decision'' to have a joint campaign by the BJP-Sena in Maharashtra was apparently taken at a meeting here this morning of some 18 BJP and Shiv Sena MPs from Maharashtra. Mr. Naik disclosed that the NCP president, Mr. Sharad Pawar, had seen him today to discuss some State projects. But naturally the Maharashtra happenings were also discussed and Mr. Pawar is reported to have expressed the hope that the ``crisis'' would be resolved soon.

While Mr. Naik described the State Government's moves as ``provocative,'' Mr. Geete virtually described Mr. Thackeray as the angel who had ``saved Mumbai'' in 1993 when he wrote ``Ab bas karo'' (stop it), and ``the rioting stopped.'' He added that ``Balasaheb (Thackeray) is a valiant soldier for Hindutva and the country.''