Mumbai: The Shiv Sena has taken strong exception to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s criticism of the Congress and her declaration of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) being over, saying it is akin to strengthening today’s “fascist” government.
The Shiv Sena, the Congress’ ally in Maharashtra, in an editorial in its mouthpiece Saamana, said strengthening the UPA is the only real option before the Opposition parties. The editorial said those who don’t accept the Congress’ leadership of the UPA should say so clearly, as making statements “behind the curtain only thickens suspicion”.
At the same time, the Shiv Sena also warned Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to clarify what they plan to do about the UPA and who will lead it.
“Although it is true that in West Bengal, she (Mamata) finished the Congress, the Left and the BJP, doing politics by keeping Congress away from national politics is like strengthening today’s state with a fascist tendency,” the Shiv Sena said in the Saamana editorial.
“One can understand that (PM) Modi and the BJP want the Congress to be over. It is part of their programme. But, if those fighting Modi and the BJP also feel that the Congress should be over, it is the biggest threat,” the Shiv Sena added.
The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena’s comments come three days after Banerjee sounded the death knell for the UPA saying, “There is no UPA now”, after her meeting with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar. Banerjee and Pawar both said they will work towards an Opposition alliance for the 2024 elections to take on the BJP, irrespective of whether the Congress comes on board. However, they did not say who will lead such an alliance.
Prior to her meeting with Pawar, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) president also met Shiv Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray and Sanjay Raut. Thackeray, after his meeting with Banerjee, said Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray and the West Bengal CM share a strong bond that will naturally be taken forward.
‘Those who got power due to Congress are choking it now’
In the Saamana editorial, the Shiv Sena accepted that the Congress’ decline over the past 10 years is worrying and that the UPA today is perhaps as over as the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is.
“Even then, talks of not allowing a vehicle that is slipping down to climb again and instead occupying its place are dangerous,” the Shiv Sena said.
The TMC has been trying to expand its presence and influence nationally, lobbying with regional opposition parties and trying to project itself as an outfit that can be instrumental in weaving an opposition alliance together. Its ambitions, however, come at the cost of the Congress’ position as the principal opposition party at the national level.
The Shiv Sena said that it is the Congress’ misfortune that “those who enjoyed power in peace because of the party are now trying to choke its throat”. The party said the dissenting G23 group leaders are all such old hands who have reaped benefits from being with the Congress, but are not doing anything about the Congress’ decline today.
‘G23’ was a moniker given to 23 Congress leaders who had written to party president Gandhi in August last year asking for a slew of reforms within the party.
The Shiv Sena said that opposition parties are wasting time discussing alternatives to the UPA. “Those who want a strong opposition alliance should themselves take the initiative to come forward and strengthen the UPA,” the party said.
“Those who really don’t want the current political arrangement in Delhi should have a single objective of strengthening the UPA. Some may have differences with the Congress, but the UPA can be pushed forward despite that,” it added.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)