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‘Apologise to UP migrants or don’t come to Ayodhya,’ UP MP tells Raj Thackeray

BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is seeking support from top priests and seers in Uttar Pradesh to stop the MNS chief from entering the temple town.

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Mumbai: The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) aggressive anti-migrant stance is proving to be a hurdle in the party’s ambitions of projecting a larger Hindutva agenda and its president, Raj Thackeray, as a saffron icon.

Ahead of Thackeray’s proposed visit to Ayodhya on 5 June, BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is seeking support from top priests, seers and members of the civil society in Uttar Pradesh to stop the MNS chief from entering the temple town.

Singh, an MP from UP’s Kaiserganj, has demanded a public apology from Thackeray for targeting migrants from Uttar Pradesh in Maharashtra in the past.

The BJP MP has circulated posters that say, “Uttar Bharatiyon ko apradhi kehene wale Raj Thackeray maafi maangon ya phir wapas jao.” (Raj Thackeray, who calls North Indians criminals, should either apologise or go back)

The posters also call on people to join him at a rally in Ayodhya.

Senior MNS leader and party spokesperson Bala Nandgaonkar did not respond to calls made by ThePrint correspondent. Thackeray has put an official gag order within his party from speaking to the media on his upcoming Ayodhya trip.

‘Believe it or not, the country belongs to everyone’

Thackeray started MNS in 2006 after walking out of the Shiv Sena. In the first few years the party had aggressively adopted a ‘sons of the soil’ campaign — an anti-migrant stance especially targeting people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with provocative speeches.

The party had some success in the first few elections that it fought on the agenda. However, since 2014, it has constantly faced a rout.

In a Facebook post Tuesday, BJP MP Singh wrote, “Friends, this is a struggle to give respect to North Indians. This movement belongs to every citizen of the country who has to live in the terror of region, language, religion and sect.”

“I want to ask Raj Thackeray why North Indians are oppressed in Maharashtra. Whether you believe it or not, the country belongs to everyone,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has slammed Thackeray for not responding to Singh. “The Raj Thackeray who proclaims ultimatums in Maharashtra, why is he not responding to BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh?…If Raj Thackeray apologises to North Indians, he will definitely be able to complete his Ayodhya trip, but he will not be able to open his mouth in front of Maharashtra’s Marathi population again,” said NCP spokesperson Mahesh Tapse.

Tapse also alleged that the BJP has created this ‘sticky situation’ for Thackeray to deflate his ego.

BJP MLA from Maharashtra Atul Bhatkhalkar told ThePrint, “The BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh has taken his position according to the political realities of his state. It has nothing to do with Maharashtra BJP. The MNS is a separate political entity and will respond to the situation.”

Raj Thackeray’s turn to Hindutva

After the Shiv Sena’s split with the BJP in 2020 and its subsequent alliance with ideological and political rivals Congress and the NCP to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), the MNS embraced Hindutva as a political agenda, looking to occupy the Shiv Sena’s staunch Hindutva vote bank. The party even changed its flag to saffron from the erstwhile blue, white, orange and green.

In the last one month, the party has especially emphasised on the saffron agenda, with Thackeray wearing a saffron shawl like Hindutva icon and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, raking up the issue of loudspeakers on mosques and announcing a visit to Ayodhya.

The MVA has slammed the MNS for working in tandem with the BJP. While the BJP has rejected the suggestion, the party has been supporting Thackeray’s cause in Maharashtra.

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