Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray emphasised Sunday that his party Shiv Sena’s Hindutva is “more real”, and asked his ally-turned-rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to take lessons on the subject from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat.
Thackeray’s remarks come at a time when the BJP has been questioning the Shiv Sena’s Hindutva, demanding that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government — consisting of Thackeray’s party and its former rivals NCP and Congress — open temples in the state that have been shut since the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed in March. Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, a former BJP functionary, had even written to Thackeray about this demand, and asked him if he had “become secular”.
However, Thackeray, speaking at the Shiv Sena’s annual Dussehra rally, said: “We are being asked questions about Hindutva because we aren’t opening temples… There’s a huge difference between your Hindutva and (Shiv Sena founder and his father) Balasaheb Thackeray’s Hindutva. He used to say ‘I don’t want the Hindutva of ringing bells’.”
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— Office of Uddhav Thackeray (@OfficeofUT) October 25, 2020
Thackeray said RSS chief Bhagwat’s Dussehra speech explained the meaning of Hindutva in an exemplary way, and said it is the same narrative that Bal Thackeray advocated.
Bhagwat said in his address at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur that the word ‘Hindutva’ expresses identity, continuity of spirituality-based traditions and the entire wealth of value system in the land of Bharat.
“If you have a brain under those caps that you wear, think about the RSS chief’s words and understand Hindutva first,” Thackeray said, adding that the speech should be published in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, Saamana.
“Bhagwat also said, politics is not war… Why are you more interested in toppling the government?” Thackeray said, challenging the BJP to try and destabilise the MVA government, which completes a year on 28 November.
“Listen to your RSS chief. Instead, if you are just looking at the chair, then the legs of the chair can be cut any time. Today, the NDA has crumbled,” he added.
In a departure from tradition, the Shiv Sena’s Dussehra rally was held at the Swatantra Veer Savarkar auditorium in Dadar this year instead of at Shivaji Park, in a bid to restrict the number of attendees to 50 due to the Covid crisis. Thackeray made a special mention of the venue being Hindutva ideologue Savarkar’s memorial at Dadar.
‘BJP wants Nitish Kumar, who wanted Sangh-mukt Bharat’
With the first phase of the Bihar assembly elections coming up in three days, Thackeray took a dig at the BJP’s alliance with the Janata Dal (United) and its commitment to declaring Bihar CM Nitish Kumar as the chief ministerial candidate, irrespective of the number of seats his party wins.
“We were saying Mohan Bhagwat should be made President, but you (the BJP) didn’t listen. Today, you don’t want the Shiv Sena, which says Mohan Bhagwat should be the country’s President, which says Hindutva is our nationality. But you want Nitish Kumar, who wanted a Sangh-mukt Bharat,” Thackeray said.
He added that in 2014, when Narendra Modi was the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Nitish Kumar wanted a “more secular face”.
“Has Nitish Kumar, who used to say ‘Sangh-mukt Bharat’, become a Hindutva advocate or have you become secular?” the Shiv Sena president said.
Thackeray also lashed out at the BJP’s promise of free Covid vaccinations in Bihar, questioning the special treatment of Bihar and asking if the rest of the country is “Bangladesh or Kazakhstan”.
‘Why are you slinging mud at a son of Maharashtra?’
On the BJP’s criticism of the Mumbai Police over the probe into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death and the alleged ‘TRP scam’, CM Thackeray strongly defended the police force, saying people are trying to defame Maharashtra simply because it is making progress.
“They say there’s no law and order in Maharashtra. Mumbai Police is useless and Mumbai is Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Charas, ganja is sold everywhere,” Thackeray said in his first strong words on the controversies surrounding the probe into Rajput’s death and actor Kangna Ranaut’s remarks about Mumbai being like Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
“Maharashtra is being defamed because it is making progress… Calling Mumbai PoK is an insult to PM Modi. Modi had said he will include PoK in India. He can’t even step there, but if someone is saying there is a Pakistan-occupied territory in Mumbai, then it is his failure,” he added.
He also strongly criticised the BJP for dragging his son and state cabinet minister Aaditya Thackeray’s name into the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
“The son of Bihar committed suicide here. Maharashtra is looking into it seriously. But, why are you slinging mud on Maharashtra’s son? On Aaditya, the Thackeray family, Maharashtra?” the senior Thackeray said.
“You have filled your mouth with gaumutra and cow dung, and are talking to us,” he said.