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'Raj Thackeray Should Have Opposed Modi-Shah'

Last updated on: April 13, 2024 11:29 IST
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'Maharashtra's asmita was crushed under Delhi's feet.'
'Marathi Manoos is definitely angry.'

IMAGE: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Founder Raj Thackeray addresses the MNS's Gudi Padwa rally at Shivaji Park in Mumbai, April 9, 2024. Photograph: ANI Photo

A day after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena Founder Raj Thackeray declared his unconditional support for the ruling Mahayuti alliance in the state, Sanjay Shirsat, the spokesperson for the Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, claimed the move would avoid the potential vote division in elections.

An MNS general secretary, Kirtikumar Shinde, who remained unknown among the party's hierarchy and worked from behind the scenes as an organsational man, suddenly hit the spotlight after he tendered his resignation on social media to express his opposition to Raj Thackeray's 360-degree political turn in Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra D Modi's support.

"A state like Maharashtra, which takes immense pride in its independence from Delhi, had to witness the humiliation of having two of its most important political parties split vertically by the Modi-Shah duo. This was unthinkable, " Kirtikumar Shinde tells Prasanna D Zore/

Why did you quit the MNS?

I posted my resignation, and the reasons why I quit the MNS, on my Facebook feed.

The position that Raj saheb and the MNS took against the Modi-Shah duo during the 2019 general election was very important; it was historic.

The situation under Prime Minister Modi's rule, in the next five years (between 2019 and 2024 during Modi's second term), worsened much more than what it was between 2014 and 2019.

In these last five years, Modi made large-scale use of agencies like the ED (Enforcement Directorate), the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and the Income Tax department to cow down and destroy the entire Opposition space across India.

A state like Maharashtra, which takes immense pride in its independence from Delhi, had to witness the humiliation of having two of its most important political parties (the Shiv Sena headed by Uddhav Thackeray and the Nationalist Congress Party headed by Sharad Pawar) split vertically by the Modi-Shah duo making use of these very same agencies.

This was unthinkable, extraordinary, yet abominable for the people of state.

The modus operandi used by Modi to bring about these splits in Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party is absolutely condemnable.

Maharashtra's asmita (pride/self-respect) was crushed under Delhi's feet by these two splits. Maharashtra would have never imagined such political chicanery just so that the Opposition remains in disarray and nobody challenges the powerful in Delhi.

That is not Maharashtra. Maharashtra has always challenged Delhi's might whenever such force was used to crush our pride and self-respect.

And here I am not talking about political parties forming alliances of their own free will, to expand their bases or protect their own interests.

Ashya veli Raj sahebansarkhya dumdar, kankhar vyaktine, aadhichi line gheun, virodh karayala hawa hota (Given this background, a solid, strong leader like Raj Thackeray should have opposed the duo, just like he did it in 2019).

If he had had his political compulsions, he should have remained neutral.

But Raj Thackeray, at a public meeting during the MNS's Gudi Padwa rally, offered his unconditional support to Narendra Modi and exhorted his party workers to start preparing for the 2024 Maharashtra assembly elections. Why?

The only reason that comes to my mind is that he must have done it for the MNS' survival.

Perhaps, he must have had thought that such a move will help the MNS expand its wing and come out of a bad patch that the party finds itself in today (From 13 MLAs in 2009, the MNS today has just one MLA in Maharashtra and its vote share in the 2019 general election stood at a mere 1.5 per cent).

Do you think that the reason you have given for your resignation as MNS's general secretary is shared by many other functionaries of the party as well as a sizeable section of ordinary Maharashtrian voters in the state?

The feedback that I am getting not only from party functionaries but also the general public in Maharashtra suggests that the people of Maharashtra share my concerns.

Marathi manoos tar nakkich naraz aahe (The Marathi-speaking people are definitely angry).

People like Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar may have taken along with them some other important leaders (to form the government in alliance with the BJP), but can they be sure about their voters' allegiance, or support, for what they did to their parent parties in the state?

We will get a very clear answer to this question on June 4 (the scheduled day for counting of ballots for the 2024 Lok Sabha election) but people like me don't want to wait till June 4.

Though this is not in any way a rebellion, I had to express my dissatisfaction and opposition to the decision taken (by Raj Thackeray to offer unconditional support to the BJP).

IMAGE: Kirtikumar Shinde, right, with MNS President Raj Thackeray. Photograph: Kind courtesy Kirtikuar Shinde

What do you make of his statement exhorting his supporters to start preparing for the 2024 Maharashtra assembly election?
There are reports which suggest that Raj Thackeray will take over the Shiv Sena after merging the MNS with the Shiv Sena and then lead the party against Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena?

He has himself denied it (such a possibility) in his (Gudi Padwa) speech. Such reports are preposterous. He has publicly made his view known on this subject.

Didn't he take on Narendra Modi and Amit Shah during his public rallies during the 2019 Lok Sabha election?
People have not forgotten his 'lava re to video' to make fun of Modi and exhort his supporters to vote against the BJP and make India Modi-mukt.
And yet today, he has offered his unconditional support to Modi. Does such a volte face within five years improve credibility of political leaders today?

I am still sure that MNS will not merge into the Shiv Sena and what the reports are suggesting will ever become a reality.

Will the MNS continue to exist as an independent political party and contest the 2024 assembly elections on its train engine symbol?

Even today the MNS exists. The party might have lost its vote share, but the party still exists. Raj saheb still uses it as a platform to espouse the cause of the people of Maharashtra.

The MNS exists today and it shall also exist tomorrow.

Like you have high tides and low tides, a political party also, as it comes into existence, grows, ebbs, and then again grows, also experiences crests and troughs.

Like after its formation in 2005, the MNS saw a high tide in its fortunes in 2009; then the ebb in 2014 and 2019 and yet the party exists. We also fared well during the 2012 BMC election. We even had our rule in the Nashik Municipal Corporation.

Will Raj Thackeray, Devendra Fadnavis, Eknath Shinde and Ajit Pawar form an umbrella alliance and contest the 2024 assembly elections in Maharashtra?

100 per cent.

Won't it bring good days for the MNS then? And yet you quit the party when it is hoping to revive itself and expand in the days ahead?

I have quit on the basis of my principles. I am very much attached to the politics of Marathi people and let me assure that whatever I do I will never join hands with the BJP.

I will take my own time before making my next political move.

But I would like to reiterate that there is confusion in the MNS (after Raj Thackeray took the diametrically opposite position of supporting Narendra Modi after his blistering attack on him and the BJP in 2019).

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