Uddhav Thackeray is fighting to hold on to the legacy of his father Balasaheb Thackeray, who founded the Shiv Sena. Mr.Thackeray attacked the Election Commission for delaying to recognise the ‘real’ Shiv Sena among the two factions. He also said that the EC should take suo motu cognisance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement during the Karnataka elections. Edited excerpts:
Do you regret that you resigned as CM rather than face the floor test last year? If you had faced the floor test, the SC might have reinstated you...
The judgment depends on how you see it. People are shocked that despite being illegal, this government (led by Eknath Shinde, who split from Mr. Thackeray) is still in power. There are two-three aspects here. We filed a petition for disqualification of the first 16 MLAs and later 22. They will have to be disqualified, going by the judgment. At the same time, the court has also observed that the entire process of how the government was formed was illegal. And we also approached the Supreme Court for the name and symbol of the party. The court has clearly mentioned that a party’s legitimacy can’t be decided by the number of MLAs and MPs, but on the party’s structure and the constitution. That was our demand. For two to three months, the Election Commission of India (EC) drove us around in circles by saying that they would decide the case on the basis of numbers, MLAs, MPs etc. We sent them a list of over 20 lakh members and affidavits of our office-bearers to support our claim. We have sent all the documents to Delhi by train by taking all precautions. Despite having everything, the EC gave its decision that the party belongs to them [the Shinde faction] as 40 MLAs are with them. It is wrong. Such a thing never happened and it should not happen in the future. The EC can register the party and allot election symbol, but it cannot decide the name of anyone’s party. They can’t give my party name to others. We did not give the name [Shiv Sena] after asking them. My father gave it the name. So the EC decision was wrong.
EC should know what its powers are. It once disenfranchised my father and other leaders for speeches [in late 1980s]. My father campaigned on issues like Ram Mandir and Babri Masjid. But now, Prime Minister is campaigning by saying Jai Bajrangbali . So did the EC change the rule or are they selective? It should be a big issue. Is the PM allowed to do whatever he wants? Will the EC take suo motu cognisance against the PM? The rule should be equal for everyone.
After the SC verdict, are you hopeful of getting the Shiv Sena name back?
The case is pending with Supreme Court. I guess, the verdict will be pronounced after the summer vacation.
What is your analysis of the Karnataka election and its impact on national politics?
People of Karnataka have voted on the basis of ground reality. Someone said ‘ Ache din aayenge ’ [good days will come], he spoke about rising prices, unemployment, etc. They are completing nine years in power... enough time to make a difference. If the media questions them on such issues, they will target and shut their business. [Union Home Minister] Amit Shah said that Karnataka will see communal riots if Congress came to power. What does it mean? When I was Chief Minister, I prevented communal riots even during tough times of CAA and NRC. I didn’t allow communal riots to happen in my Maharashtra. Even during the COVID-19 lockdown, communal riots didn’t happen when I closed all religious places. People were listening to me as I never spoke anything against anyone. Currently, Manipur is burning. Why riots have increased suddenly? Even [former J&K Governor] Satyapal Malik explained in detail about Pulwama. I’m scared that they will now raise communal rhetoric to win elections… In Nashik, the custom of Muslims offering reverence at the Trimbakeshwar temple is being turned into a controversy. This was communal harmony. You (BJP) first decide whether you want to play Hindu-Muslim politics or patriotism. We are against deshdrohis , traitors, it doesn’t matter if they are Hindus or Muslims. A soldier named Auragazeb was martyred in Kashmir. It doesn’t matter if he was a Muslim because he fought for our country, our motherland and died. Terrorists didn’t see if he was a Muslim or not. They knew he was an Indian and killed him. What is your [BJP] Hindutva? Is going around with gaumutra your Hindutva?
What do you expect to happen in the 2024 Lok Sabha election?
It depends. If we notice region-wise, the mood of people differs between Parliament and Assembly elections. But wherever there is a strong alternative, people choose them. If a regional party is strong, people vote for them, otherwise Congress.
So, according to you, people are also looking for an alternative and if there is one, they are ready to vote for them?
Yes. Did we ever imagine [Arvind] Kejriwal becoming a Chief Minister? It is his third term now. Even I never thought he would, but his party is growing. They have Chief Minister in Punjab now. Even in Karnataka, Congress had a thumping victory.
But, Maharashtra is a very unique experiment. Ten years ago, no one would have imagined Congress, Shiv Sena and NCP coming together.
There was no need for me to go with Congress, but they [BJP] pushed me. Their [BJP] policy is ‘use and throw’. See, now they changed [Kiren] Rijiju. I remember attending one NDA meeting, many years ago. There were members of more than 30 parties who participated. [Union Minister Nitin] Gadkari ji was sitting next to me and I asked him why some of the parties don’t even have an MP but are attending the meeting. He told me that they were part of NDA. That was all in the past.
Will you ever join hands with the BJP again?
Forget about me going with BJP or not. First, why did they push me? You should ask this question to BJP.
Do you think Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) is good for Maharashtra?
Many more parties are coming together... A few days ago [Bihar CM] Nitish Kumar and Mr. Kejriwal were here. [Telangana CM] K. Chandrasekhar Rao was here, and we met Mamata ji, [Jharkhand CM] Hemant Soren. We are ready to make anyone [PM], but won’t tolerate this dictatorship [of BJP government]... Everyone is trying [to defeat BJP in 2024 election] and we hope to succeed.
What is your definition of Hindutva?
Not mine, but my grandfather always used to say that his Hindutva was not about sporting shendi-janeu [tuft of hair at the back of the head specifically kept by Vaishnavas and Brahmanas’ sacred thread].
My father used to say I don’t want a Hindu who bangs temple bells, but one who can bang anti-nationals/traitors. That means our Hindutva was linked to patriotism and harmony among religions. Using religion for power is not my version of Hindutva.
MVA is on shaky grounds according to some reports..?
Everything is all right with the MVA right now. But yes, in the coming days I expect BJP attempts to damage us..
What might the BJP do?
They will make some moves to recover from the setbacks. I fear communal tensions. It will come up with sugar-coated schemes or sugar-coated words... rake up emotive issues. I want to say one thing… I’m not against Modi Ji, I’m against their style of functions… Modi ji is an individual… we have to fight against their dictatorship… or else the sacrifice of freedom fighters goes in vain… slavery is slavery… either it is under the British or the BJP. Our sole agenda is to save the democracy and Constitution. Our job is to protect and save Bharatmata from slavery.
Shiv Sainiks (also referring to Shinde camp leaders) who deserted you are in contact with you again?
Even if they do, why should I reveal it?
But, they (Bharatiya Janata Party) are doing politics of revenge. People leave a party and return to it, such things happen in politics.. But, now these people are troubling my poor people, which is bad.
What is common between the Congress and Shiv Sena?
What was common between us and BJP? Our Hindutva idea was different from theirs. We came together for the cause of Hindutva, but the way they have been advancing it…There is mob lynching in the name of protecting cows…Gau mata needs protection but our matas don’t? Women are unsafe by they are after cow protection. At the same time, the BJP says people in Tripura can eat beef... In one State mob lynching for cows, while in another State, people openly consume beef.… So, what exactly is their definition of Hindutva? What wrong did I do by aligning with the Congress?
Do you expect trouble in seat sharing with Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress for Lok Sabha?
We have a mutual understanding. We will resolve any issue that might arise. I will ensure that there won’t be any trouble in seat-sharing.
So, you and others will have to compromise on certain seats?
We must accept the reality and move forward. Our goal is to win and safeguard not only Maharashtra but the entire country… Democracy should be alive, and we must protect the Constitution drafted by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Did it have a lifespan of only 75 years?