Breaking his silence over his party’s strained ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday attacked the coalition partner on issues like Pakistan, beef, Ram temple and inflation but ruled out walking out of the Maharashtra government any time soon.
He also said that the Dadri lynching incident brought shame to the country, and not Sena’s campaign against cultural or sporting ties with Pakistan.
“If you can get along with (Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister) Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, then you should also listen to Shiv Sena,” Uddhav said, addressing the Sena’s traditional Dussehra rally at ShivajiPark in Mumbai’s Dadar area on Thursday evening.
Referring to speculation of Sena parting ways with BJP, which has criticised it over the Shahryar Khan and Sudheendra Kulkarni incidents, he said, “We know for how long to remain in power. Allow us to work, now that we are in power.”
Ridiculing BJP on the Ayodhya issue, he said, “We have been hearing: “Mandir wahin banayenge... Lekin tareekh nahi batayenge (we have been hearing that temple will be built, but not when it will be built).”
Voicing a strong Hindu agenda of the Sena, Uddhav said, “If Hindu is going to be finished, will this country survive?
“Declare this country as Hindu Rashtra and implement common civil code, instead of searching in people’s homes for beef,” he said in a reference to the lynching of a 50-year-old man in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh over beef eating rumours.
The country’s image was maligned because of the Dadri lynching incident and not because of the ink attack on Kulkarni, he said, referring to Sena’s protest against the launch function of the book penned by former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Kasuri in Mumbai.
“If you have the courage, then enter Pakistan,” he said, claiming that Pakistan was keeping tabs on the Sena rally.
“Why speak on cow (beef), instead speak on inflation,” the Sena president said. “Why is it not possible to control prices of essential commodities? A government that can’t stop price rise is useless.
“If governments can fall on the issue of onion prices, one can’t say what will happen over rising inflation,” he warned, against the backdrop of skyrocketing prices of pulses. “First give protection to dal (rising prices) and then to Pakistan,” Uddhav said, adding, “why should it cause stomach ache for BJP if we speak against Pakistan.”
On Sena’s opposition to Ghulam Ali’s scheduled concert in Mumbai, he said, “I told organisers that I like songs of Jagjit Singh and Ghulam Ali. However, I also reminded them about killing of Indian soldiers by Pakistan.”
On the Sena workers’ ink attack on former BJP ideologue Kulkarni for hosting Kasuri, he said, “We applied ink to the red monkey.”
Uddhav also criticised Union ministers V K Singh over his remark on the killing of Dalit children and Kiren Rijiju for his comment on north Indians.
“Our Hindutva entails calling Param Vir Chakra awardee Abdul Hameed a hero, a soldier, a son of the soil who saved Kashmir from the Pakistani Army,” he said.
Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Owaisi bowed his head at Aurangzeb’s burial place, Uddhav said, adding “I am ready to bow my head at the ‘kabr’ of Abdul Hameed.”
“We won’t leave Marathi manoos and Hindutva at any cost,” he said, and recalled that the then President Zail Singh had thanked the late Bal Thackeray for protecting Sikhs in Mumbai and Maharashtra when anti-Sikh riots broke out in 1984.
“Balasaheb also protected Kashmiri Pandits and Amarnath pilgrims,” Uddhav said.
“Let me know now if you agree to my continuing in the post of Sena chief. I will step down if you say so,” Uddhav said, putting the question to the crowd.
Aurangzeb Road in Delhi was named after APJ Abdul Kalam, similarly Aurangabad in Maharashtra should be renamed as Sambhajinagar, he said.
Uddhav also paid tributes to Veer Savarkar, and asked, “Did any Congressman suffer for freedom like him.” Savarkar should get Bharat Ratna, he demanded.
“Those who objected to death penalty for Yakub Memon committed contempt of court,” he said.
He expressed disgust over prolonged incarceration of Lt Col Prasad Purohit and Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, saying “Hang them if they are guilty, but prove their guilt first.”
He also said killers of Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar should be hanged if they are guilty “but first prove charges against them”.
On Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar’s statement that the Sena of yore doesn’t exist now, Uddhav said, “Pawar, who appeased Sonia Gandhi for 15 years, should not teach us self respect.”
Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who also addressed the rally, taunted BJP over the treatment meted out to L K Advani.
“People look up to you as long as you are CM or PM. We see what is the condition of L K Advani today,” he said.
Referring to the ‘shastra puja’ at the rally venue on the occasion of Dussehra, he said, “Next year, there should be an AK-47 and a couple of canons here. Our fight is against Pakistan.
“Also keep a tin of oil paint. That is also a weapon. The whole world recently saw that,” Raut said, in an apparent reference to the ink attack on Kulkarni.
“You (BJP-led government) are laying red carpet for Pakistan which is killing our soldiers,” he said.
On the criticism over his own visit to Pakistan some years ago, Raut said, “I had gone with Atalji (former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee), not during United Progressive Alliance regime and I had discussed the Pakistan trip with Balasaheb.
“Pakistan is a part of akhanda (united) Hindustan, which was cut off from us with machination,” he said, adding if 50 Sena MPs get elected, “we will drag not only Dawood Ibrahim but also Nawaz Sharif” to India.
“It was the dream of Balasaheb that there should be a Shiv Sena chief minister in Maharashtra. Making a Sena leader PM of the country will be the real tribute to Balasaheb,” he said.
Senior Sena leader Ramdas Kadam, who is also a cabinet minister in the state government, spoke of ‘rising population’ of Muslims in India. “How come the population of only Muslims increased? Is only a single-point agenda being undertaken,” he asked said.
On state BJP chief Raosaheb Danve’s assurance that protection will be given if an Indo-Pak cricket match is held in Mumbai, he said, “Danve should check (Prime Minister) Modi’s statements in the past.”
Kadam also referred to the “opposition from some cats to holding Sena rally at ShivajiPark”. One such “cat” lives nearby, Kadam said, in an apparent reference to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, whose residence borders the ShivajiPark.
Before the rally, BJP minister Prakash Mehta went to the Thackeray family residence Matoshree in suburban Bandra and met Uddhav. Mehta presented Uddhav a frame which had currency notes from Re 1 to Rs 1000 denomination and also the birth dates of the late Bal Thackeray, his wife Meenatai, Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray.
Soon after his arrival at ShivajiPark with the wife Rashmi and son Aaditya, the Sena president offered tributes at the memorial of his father.
The rally comes against the backdrop of Sena’s strident campaign against visiting Pakistani personalities, and also the Kolhapur and Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation polls in Maharashtra, due on November 1. The Sena and BJP are fighting the civic polls separately.
The simmering tension between the Sena-BJP was evident on Wednesday when the local Shiv Sena leaders put up a poster outside the party headquarters showing the picture of Modi bowing before Bal Thackeray.
While the Sena distanced itself saying that it’s not an official poster and removed it, Manohar Joshi, senior Sena leader and former Lok Sabha Speaker, had said, “The party workers have given a message to BJP through the poster.”
Shiv Sena had boycotted all the functions at which Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in Mumbai on October 11. Uddhav got the invitation for the prime minister’s function a day before, and didn’t attend it.
Sena leaders had slammed the BJP for not taking the party in confidence for the programme and taking all credit for the metro and Ambedkar memorial projects.
On Monday, the Sena activists barged into Board of Control for Cricket in India office in Mumbai and gheraoed its chairman Shashank Manohar demanding cancellation of talks on Indo-Pak cricket series. On this, Uddhav said at the rally,
“We protested in a democratic manner at Manohar’s office and did not spill blood.”
The Sena is the junior partner in the Maharashtra cabinet. However, in the cash-rich civic body of Mumbai, BJP is the junior partner.