The Shiv Sena said on Tuesday it will have no truck with ally Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2019 Maharashtra assembly and Lok Sabha polls, but was silent about its continuance in the governments at the Centre and in the state, drawing ridicule from the Congress which dubbed the announcement as 'laughable'.
The Sena, which has been routinely attacking the BJP-led governments at the Centre and in the state over a variety of issues--from demonetisation and goods and services tax to the plight of farmers and cross-border assaults by Pakistan-- also said it would now contest elections outside Maharashtra.
Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray, who was re-elected as party president today, said it did not contest elections outside Maharashtra to ensure the Hindu votes do not get divided, but would try its luck in all assembly polls in future, irrespective of the outcome.
The resolution to part ways with the BJP and go it alone in the elections next year was tabled by Sena MP Sanjay Raut at the party's National Executive meeting.
"I move the resolution for the Shiv Sena to fight the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls on its own in 2019," Raut said while tabling the document, which was adopted unanimously.
"The BJP allied with the Sena in the name of Hindutva and the Sena kept its patience for Hindutva. However, the BJP in the last three years has been demoralising the Sena and using power to do so," Raut said.
The opposition Congress and NCP taunted the Sena for the announcement, and asked why it continued to be part of the BJP-led dispensations.
Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant termed the Sena's decision 'laughable' and 'illogical'.
"The Sena remains an ally in the government, and continues to be critical of its policies. The party has scored a century of announcements to pull out of the government which it has not done so far. The people do not take the Sena seriously," he said.
Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Nawab Malik demanded that the Sena withdraw from the BJP-led state government and face mid-term polls.
"We are ready for elections," he said.
The fear of defection from its ranks is stopping the Shiv Sena from pulling out of the government, Malik alleged.
"The party is unable to come to terms with being the younger brother in the alliance with the BJP," the NCP leader said.
Thackeray, while addressing the party's National Executive, slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for flying kites with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu instead of focusing on insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir.
The BJP government was spending money only on advertisements, Thackeray alleged, and said such a dispensation should be brought down.
"Why did you have to take the Israeli PM to Ahmedabad? What purpose did it serve? The nation would have been proud of you had you taken him (Netanyahu) to Srinagar and hoisted the tricolour there or taken him to Lal Chowk and hoisted the flag there," said Thackeray.
This government, he said, spends money on advertisements but seemingly nothing on the actual implementation of schemes and should be brought down if it was doing so.
"If killing a cow is a crime and is banned, then speaking lies for power should also be considered a sin and be stopped," he said.
Thackeray also took up the issue of Modi's indication during the Gujarat poll campaign that Pakistan was trying to influence the results of the assembly election.
"Today, we do not know if the country is going forward or backward. The environment in the country is such that Pakistan has become an election issue. The neighbouring country was also brought in for Gujarat elections... there is no co-relation between the two," Thackeray said.
The situation became such that Pakistan had to formally ask India not to drag it in its internal issues, he said.
Thackeray said that despite Modi's promise of 'acche din', soldiers were sacrificing their lives every day and their mutilated bodies were being brought to their native places and consigned to flames.
"However, we just give talks about teaching Pakistan a lesson every time. Once and for all, take concrete action rather than just talk," Thackeray said.
He also slammed Union minister Nitin Gadkari for his recent remarks about defence personnel. If Gadkari does not want to accept their demands, the BJP should also not take credit for the surgical strikes, he said.
Gadkari had on January 11 said that 'not an inch' of land would be given for Navy housing in south Mumbai, wondering why all its personnel wanted to stay in the posh area when they should be at the Pakistan border.
Gadkari had made the remark while voicing his disappointment at the Navy's objection to a floating jetty plan at Malabar Hill in south Mumbai, where a floating hotel and seaplane service are planned.
Thackeray said, "If you say you are the government and the Army personnel should go to the border rather than make demands, why did you take undue credit for the surgical strikes? Did you even go to the border then?"
"People are saying you came to power by indulging in scams. The Army not just has a 56-inch chest, but valour as well," he said.
The Sena and BJP contested the last Lok Sabha poll together but went their separate ways in the Maharashtra assembly polls following dispute over seat-sharing.
Though they came together again to form the government, the bitterness endures.