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‘Shinde reading BJP script’, ‘Uddhav running pvt ltd co’ — clash of two Senas at Dussehra rallies

While CM Eknath Shinde targeted Uddhav in his Dussehra rally speech, Thackeray, in his speech, attacked the BJP & RSS, dismissing the CM as a 'BJP stooge'.

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Mumbai: Hindutva, gaddar (traitors) and nishtha (loyalty). The two separate Dussehra rallies held in Mumbai Wednesday by the Shiv Sena’s competing factions saw their leaders make speeches along predictable lines.

There was, however, a nuanced difference. The focal point of the speech made by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who addressed the rally of his rebel faction at the Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), was a bitter criticism of his former boss, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray.

However, Thackeray, marked out the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as his main target, dismissing Shinde as someone who simply “reads the BJP’s script”.

Meanwhile, CM Shinde almost validated the former CM’s statements when he said he is proud to be “Modi-Shah’s hastak” (Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s hand) and that Thackeray should not take them lightly.

“You are making fun of the PM? You are calling the home minister Afzal Khan? The person who scrapped Article 370 from Kashmir? It was Balasaheb’s dream,” Shinde said, adding how the Modi government has also started work on the Ayodhya Ram Mandir.

“So, who fulfilled Balasaheb’s dreams? Modiji and Amit Shah, and you are making fun of them? Don’t think they are weak. Those who called him [Modi] chaiwalla, look at what has happened to their party. Your time too…,” Shinde said, leaving his sentence hanging.

He added that he would rather be “Modi-Shah’s hastak” than “Dawood-Yaqub Memon’s hastak,” referring to the BJP’s claim of Memon’s grave having been beautified under the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition government — comprising the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress.

The two rallies come less than a month before a crucial assembly bypoll in Mumbai, the first since the fall of the Thackeray-led MVA and a vertical split in the Shiv Sena.

The speeches were also significant considering Mumbai is likely to hold its civic polls later this year or early next year.

Indirectly slamming Shinde as a BJP stooge, Thackeray said while the Shinde government is about to complete 100 days in power, 90 of those must have been spent with the CM being in Delhi.

“I want to challenge him (Shinde), let’s have one rally where you speak without reading the BJP’s script…When I was CM, there were about five or six press conferences, but Deputy CM Ajit Pawar never spoke in my ear,” Thackeray said, referring to a press conference held in July where Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis had snatched the microphone from the CM in the middle of his address.

Also read: In 1st poll battle since MVA govt fell, Congress & NCP back Uddhav’s candidate for Andheri East

Question is whether democracy will stay alive’

The Shiv Sena Dussehra rally has been an annual tradition in which the Shiv Sena chief is known to make a roaring speech, lashing out at rivals and setting the political tone for the party’s cadre to follow in the near term.

However, for the first time since the Shiv Sena’s inception in 1966, the party held two Dussehra rallies — Shinde’s at BKC and Thackeray’s at its traditional venue, Shivaji Park.

In June this year, Shinde had led a rebellion of Shiv Sena MLAs causing the Thackeray-led MVA to fall.

Claiming to be the “real” Shiv Sena, Shinde then joined hands with the BJP to form the state government. The Thackeray-led Shiv Sena has been alleging that the BJP instigated the rebellion to finish the Shiv Sena.

During his speech, Thackeray quoted BJP President J.P. Nadda as saying that no other party will remain.

“I want to tell you, this means there will be an autocratic government. Will you accept this?….Now the question is whether the country’s democracy will stay alive or not,” Thackeray said, slamming BJP on topics such as inflation, currency depreciation and the alleged preferential treatment given to Gujarat for investments.

Meanwhile, Shinde, referring to himself as a rickshaw-wala, made his rebellion a class issue, lashing out at Thackeray for allegedly running Shiv Sena like a “private limited company” and claiming himself to be a common Shiv Sainik who owns Bal Thackeray’s legacy.

“Can a rickshaw driver not be CM? Only those born with a golden spoon, the zamindar, can become CM? A chai wallah became a PM, and you are making fun of him?” Shinde said.

The ‘real’ Hindutva

When Shinde led his infamous rebellion, he had cited the dilution of Shiv Sena’s original Hindutva agenda under Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray’s leadership as one of the reasons for walking out of the MVA government.

While Shinde continued the attack on Thackeray’s supposedly watered-down Hindutva, Uddhav clearly marked the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as his competition, rather than the Shinde-led faction.

Accusing Uddhav of forgetting his father’s teachings, Shinde said, “Balasaheb made the slogan ‘Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain’ (say it proudly, we are Hindus) famous. But you also stopped referring to Balasaheb as Hinduhruday samrat and only started referring to him as ‘paksha pramukh’ (party chief).”

“Mantralaya had Shiv Sena jhanda (flag) and NCP-Congress agenda,” he added.

Rejecting the claims that he had abandoned Hindutva after forging an alliance with the Congress and NCP, the former CM said, “Mohan Bhagwat went to a mosque. Has he left Hindutva? He went there to have a dialogue. But we went with Congress, so they say we have quit Hindutva. What are you trying to imply?”

Thackeray insisted that his Hindutva is not Brahminical and is very much based on Bal Thackeray’s ideology.

“The Shiv Sena pramukh had said my country is my Hindutva. So even a Muslim who loves his country is my person…So I want to ask them, what’s your Hindutva?” Thackeray said in his speech.

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also read: ‘Balasaheb’s shadow’ for 30 years, why Thapa’s backing is good optics for Eknath Shinde


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