Mumbai: Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray Wednesday slammed the BJP for allegedly having only economic interests in Mumbai and hurled veiled taunts at Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis. The former Maharashtra CM also took a jibe at Delhi CM and Aam Aadmi Party national convenor Arvind Kejriwal, saying the Sena has done good work too, but doesn’t advertise.
Thackeray’s comments come ahead of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections, expected to be held later this year.
“Delhi has good schools. And across the country it should happen. BMC schools too were once looked down upon, but today I can proudly say that people queue outside Mumbai public schools. This is Shiv Sena’s work. I respect Arvind Kejriwal’s work. I have no hatred for anyone, but where we fail is we don’t advertise what we do,” Thackeray said.
The Shiv Sena president was addressing party office bearers at Mumbai’s NESCO ground.
Mounting a scathing attack on the BJP, Thackeray said Mumbai may just be a piece of land for the BJP, a square foot that the BJP wants to sell to real estate agents, but for the Shiv Sena and Thackeray, it is their motherland.
Recalling that the BJP had its roots in the now-defunct Bharatiya Jana Sangh party, Thackeray claimed the former party had tried to break the Marathi Manoos during their fight for Samyukt Maharashtra (United Maharashtra) in the 1950s (before the state of Maharashtra was created) and the fight for Mumbai.
“What are you accusing me of being a dynast? I am proud of my family lineage. You have an eye on Mumbai and when the fight for Mumbai and Samyukt Maharashtra was going on, Jan Sangh was not a part of that fight,” he alleged.
Thackeray added: “In fact when the Samyukt Maharashtra Samiti was established, one of the first five main leaders was my grandfather. Everything was burning then. They wanted Mumbai in Maharashtra and during the elections, it was Jan Sangh that broke away from the Samiti and broke the Marathi Manoos. This is their children.”
Thackeray also warned the BJP against using a divide and rule policy and said, ”We are here not just to gain votes. Balasaheb Thackeray never said that all Muslims are traitors. We are with everyone. As a CM I never differentiated between anyone. Your divide and rule policy won’t work here,” he said.
The Shiv Sena has been in power at the BMC for the past 25 years, and the BJP has vowed to wrest power from the regional party in municipal elections this year.
Five years ago, ahead of the last BMC elections, Shiv Sena leaders had similarly gathered at the same venue to galvanise the cadre. Then too, the fight had been against the BJP, as the Sena — disillusioned with playing second fiddle to its long-term coalition partner — had decided to go solo in the polls.
The upcoming BMC elections follow the split within the Shiv Sena earlier this year when a group of rebel MLAs led by Eknath Sinde broke away from the party to align with the BJP, resulting in the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state — a coalition of the Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress. The rebel Sena faction and the BJP coalition then went on to form government in the state with Shinde as CM.
‘Mumbai won’t bend to Delhi’
Claiming that Mumbai won’t bend to Delhi despite the BJP’s attempts, Thackeray said, “This is the capital of Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s Maharashtra, Mumbai, and it won’t bend before Delhi.”
Referring to the BJP as ‘Kamalabai’, a name he claimed was given by his father Bal Thackeray, the former Maharashtra CM alleged there had been various kinds of pressure from the Centre even at the peak of the Covid pandemic, but that he — as then CM of the state — had not given on to it and instead focussed on building health infrastructure and saving lives.
Referring to Shinde and the faction led by him as “gaddars (traitors)”, Thackeray said, “They are gaddars. BJP wants us to fight with gaddars and Kamalabai will just watch from a distance. I don’t want to do so. The blood in the veins of gaddars is of parasites. I would like to have few honest people than a bunch of gaddars.”
Talking about how the party should prepare for the BMC polls, Thackeray told the cadre to fight the elections as if it was their first.
“I remember once Asha Bhosale (singer) was asked why are your songs so popular after so many years. She said that I sing every song as if it is the first song of my life. Similarly, we have to fight the elections with the same attitude.”
He added: “Yes, this will be the final election that Fadnavis will contest”.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)