Mumbai: Two months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked people to come into their balconies and clap for the essential services battling Covid-19 on the frontlines, the BJP has called for a similar showcase of public sentiment in Maharashtra, although with a different objective.
Come 11.30 am Friday, the BJP, which is in opposition in the state, wants Maharashtra residents to dress in black, enter their balconies, and display placards with slogans against the ruling Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government led by Uddhav Thackeray.
The idea is to protest against what the BJP describes as the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s inability to handle the coronavirus crisis. As of Thursday, Maharashtra had recorded 41,642 coronavirus cases, the highest in the country. Of these, 11,726 patients have recovered while 1,454 have died.
The campaign, named ‘Mera Angan, Mera Ranangan (my home, my battlefield) – Save Maharashtra’, is specifically aimed at Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, a former ally of the BJP.
Discussing the planned protest with the media Wednesday evening, Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil said “people should wear black clothes or masks or even dupattas”.
“The placards should have slogans against the ‘Thackeray sarkar (Thackeray government)’. The situation is spiralling out of control and the government is not doing enough to contain the pandemic,” he added.
The BJP has asked all its workers to spread the word so the protest can be a success. “We want the people to maintain social distancing during this protest,” Patil said.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande has criticised the planned protest. “There is a pandemic. The government is doing everything it can. The BJP wants people to wear black masks and dupattas and is asking them to stand on their balconies with placards. Is this a joke?” she said, addressing the media Thursday.
Maharashtra Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat of the Congress lashed out at the BJP for attempting to whip up an anti-government sentiment at a time when the state is caught in an unprecedented crisis. “The BJP wants to destabilise the government. This has been long on their agenda,” Thorat told TV news channels.
‘BJP doing it wrong’
The protest doesn’t seem to have enthused others in the opposition.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Sandeep Deshpande said public sentiment had turned against Thackeray government but the BJP’s way of highlighting it is wrong.
The MNS is led by Raj Thackeray, who is Uddhav’s cousin, and the party has been inching close to the BJP of late. “I think there is a public sentiment against the Thackeray government. Initially, it was not so but now this sentiment is there. There is a failure on the part of the government machinery,” Deshpande said. “The way in which the BJP is doing it is wrong,” he added.
Terming the BJP protest “outrageously hypocritical”, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kumar Ketkar said the party should also look at Gujarat, where it is in office. As of Thursday, Gujarat had the third highest total of Covid-19 cases recorded in India, with 12,537 cases, over 5,000 cured or discharged, and 749 deaths.
“Their own party cannot manage the situation in Gujarat. That state has half the population of Maharashtra and the management of the crisis is the worst,” Ketkar added. “Gujarat is the worst-attended state. All those who are protesting tomorrow should tell their government in Gujarat what to do before telling the Maharashtra government, which is doing a much better job than in BJP-ruled states.”