Mumbai: A year before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the subject of Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar has become the latest flashpoint in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) with the Congress and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) struggling with their ideological differences on the issue.
The MVA comprises the Shiv Sena (UBT), Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
The most recent trigger for the rift is Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s statement Saturday that he will not apologise for anything as his name is not Savarkar. Gandhi was disqualified from the Lok Sabha Friday a day after he was convicted in a defamation case by a local court in Surat.
The Shiv Sena (UBT) slammed the remark with party chief Uddhav Thackeray during his rally at Malegaon Sunday saying he will not tolerate disrespect to Savarkar.
The Congress tried to downplay the rift saying the Shiv Sena (UBT) and Congress have always differed on their stands on Savarkar and that Thackeray and Gandhi will discuss the issue.
“The Congress party has never compromised with its ideologies. Congress is a party that advocates interfaith equality and does not hate any religion or person. Congress walks along with people from all castes. Rahul Gandhi and Uddhav Thackeray will discuss the Savarkar issue,” Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole said in a statement Monday.
Earlier on 11 March, the MVA planned to take out joint rallies in the state to emphasise its unity amid the differences, with first one scheduled in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (earlier known as Aurangabad) on 2 April.
Meanwhile, the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena is attempting to take political advantage of the fissures by showing how his faction is more committed to the original Shiv Sena’s political ideology of hailing Savarkar and condemning his critics.
The Maharashtra Chief Minister Monday changed the display picture on his social media handles to an image of Savarkar’s and announced that his party along with ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will hold ‘Savarkar Gaurav Yatras’ across all 36 districts and 288 assembly constituencies of Maharashtra.
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Fissures within the MVA
In an editorial in the party’s mouthpiece Saamana, the Shiv Sena (UBT) on Monday said what happened with Gandhi with regards to his targeted disqualification was a 100 percent incorrect. However, the party added, “By insulting Savarkar, the sympathy for Rahul Gandhi will go down. In fact it will be difficult for the Congress leaders in the state to face the public as Savarkar is present in every nook and corner of the state.”
The Shiv Sena (UBT) and Congress had clashed in November last year too, when Gandhi had made certain allegedly objectionable remarks about Savarkar during the Maharashtra leg of his Bharat Jodo Yatra.
Following the latest row, Congress’s Patole in his statement alleged that the Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) have always had different ideologies with regards to Savarkar and it is the MVA’s political rivals who are trying to split the three-party alliance over the issue.
“Currently, the battle to save the country, democracy and Constitution is important. This battle is big and we are fighting together against the BJP. Congress party’s stance towards Savarkar is clear from the beginning, there is nothing new in it. But the opposition is trying to split the MVA over the issue, but they will not succeed, we will continue to be united,” he said.
The NCP, whose leaders have in the past praised Savarkar, preferred to sit out the latest controversy. NCP spokesperson Mahesh Tapase told ThePrint, “We don’t want to talk on emotive issues. It is more important to cement all forces that will save the Constitution and democracy.”
Earlier this month, the absence of NCP leaders in a Congress-led Opposition march to the Enforcement Directorate’s office in Delhi on US-based shortseller Hindenburg Research’s report on the Adani Group had also raised questions within the political circles.
However, an NCP leader who did not wish to be named, said that not much should be read into it. “Sometimes leaders are busy. The NCP is committed to Opposition unity. Sharad Pawar sahab had called for a meeting to discuss concerns over ELectronic Voting Machines and had even addressed a joint press conference with Kapil Sibal.”
‘Savarkar Gaurav Yatras’
The Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena, meanwhile, is using the dispute within the MVA to try and show how his party is more concerned about any disrespect to Savarkar than the Shiv Sena (UBT).
In a joint press conference with deputy CM and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis Monday, Shinde slammed Uddhav Thackeray for “mere lip service,” and declared that his party’s coalition with the BJP will launch ‘Savarkar Gaurav Yatras’ in each of Maharashtra’s 36 districts and 288 assembly constituencies to condemn Gandhi’s remarks on Savarkar as well as “highlight his contribution to the society.”
“Just yesterday, it was said in the speech (Uddhav Thackeray’s Malegaon rally) that we will not tolerate disrespect to Savarkar. When you say you won’t tolerate, what will you do? Will you slap him like Balasaheb Thackeray had slapped Mani Shanker Aiyar? Just lip service is not enough,” Shinde said at the press conference.
In 2004, after the then Union minister Aiyar had removed a plaque with Savarkar’s quotes in Andaman and Nicobar Islands’ Cellular jail, Shiv Sena supremo had called for people to hit Congress leader’s effigy with slippers, according to reports.
(Edited by Anumeha Saxena)
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