Wednesday, 10 August, 2022
HomePolitics‘We left BJP, not Hindutva’: With Aaditya's Ayodhya visit, Sena looks to...

‘We left BJP, not Hindutva’: With Aaditya’s Ayodhya visit, Sena looks to reclaim core politics

BJP & MNS have accused Shiv Sena of abandoning Hindutva cause. Thackeray scion's 'pilgrimage' to temple town is seen as part of Sena's counter-push emphasising ideological roots.

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Ayodhya:  Hundreds of tall hoardings bearing Shiv Sena scion Aaditya Thackeray’s photograph line the 135-km stretch between Lucknow and Ayodhya, all bearing messages of welcome. 

On Wednesday, the 32-year-old Thackeray was on his first solo trip to the temple town of Ayodhya — the heart of kamandal politics (a water pot used by ascetics, kamandal is now a metaphor for Hindutva politics) — hundreds of Shiv Sainiks in tow. 

After he offered his prayers at the site of the Ram Temple, Aaditya Thackeray told ThePrint that his visit wasn’t political, but rather, a pilgrimage. (Although the holdings welcoming him told a different story, demurred Raju Das, a mahant at the prominent Hanumangarhi temple.)

“We’re not here for shakti pradarshan (show of strength) but for bhakti (worship),” said Thackeray, the minister for tourism and environment in his father’s Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

“Our Hindutva is clear. We have always said, “Raghukul reet sada chali ayi, praan jaye par vachan na jaye,” he added, quoting a verse from the Ramayana that says it was a tradition of the Raghukula — the royal lineage in which the god Rama was born — that you shouldn’t go back on your word even at the cost of your life

Speaking to ThePrint, Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, who arrived in Ayodhya ahead of Thackeray to oversee preparations for the visit, said the party had never left Hindutva.

“[We’ve] left the BJP. Leaving the BJP doesn’t mean leaving Hindutva,” he said. “Hindutva and the BJP are two separate things. Hindutva is for everybody. It’s not the monopoly of the BJP or any one party.”

Aaditya Thackeray’s visit to Ayodhya comes amid strident criticism from the Sena’s former ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), as well as the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena — a Shiv Sena splinter led by Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray’s estranged cousin, Raj Thackeray — which has been stepping up its Hindutva pitch. 

Both the BJP and the MNS have been accusing the Shiv Sena of having abandoned its Hindutva, and consequently its founder Bal Thackeray’s principles, after it allied with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in 2019 to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi, the current ruling coalition in Maharashtra. 

To counter such allegations, the Shiv Sena has made a push to emphasise its Hindutva moorings.  

Also Wednesday, Thackeray announced that his government was seeking land from the Uttar Pradesh government to build a ‘Maharashtra Bhawan’ in Ayodhya.

“A lot of tourists from Maharashtra come on a pilgrimage here to take darshan of Ram Lalla, and we have requested that we should have a building here where they can stay and have darshan,” he told ThePrint.

Also Read: BJP trumps Shiv Sena, NCP & Cong alliance in Maharashtra in RS polls, wins 3 of 6 seats

Hindutva politics  

Thackeray said the Shiv Sena’s Hindutva politics “is such that whatever our election issues or promises are, they’re in front of the people and we fulfill them”. 

“This is our Hindutva and it’s clear,” he said when asked if the Shiv Sena was trying to reclaim its old Hindutva politics.

Raut criticised the BJP, saying it had raised communal issues and resorted to “bulldozer politics” when there were more important problems at hand — such as unemployment, the targeted killings in Kashmir, and the border standoff between India and China that has been going on in Ladakh since 2020.

The visit comes just before crucial Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation elections that are likely to be held after the monsoon

Speaking to ThePrint, an aide of a senior Shiv Sena leader who had accompanied Thackeray to Ayodhya told ThePrint that visiting the temple town was considered “auspicious”, especially since Uddhav Thackeray became chief minister of Maharashtra about four months after visiting Ayodhya in July 2019.

Uddhav arrived in the town again in March 2020 to mark 100 days of his Maha Vikas Aghadi government, and said that some “good news in his life” had always followed his visits to Ayodhya. 

“If we want to do good work, Ram Lalla’s darshan can help bring Ram Rajya. That’s why we’ve come here,” Aaditya Thackeray told ThePrint. Ayodhya, he said, was a holy place for his family and the Sena in general. 

Asked about rivals’ criticism that the Sena spoke about Hindutva only outside Maharashtra, Thackeray said the party spoke about Hindutva “everywhere” and “all the time”.

‘Raj Thackeray’s cancelled visit nothing to do with Sena’

Aaditya Thackeray’s Ayodhya visit is also being viewed as an attempt to bridge gaps with Mumbai’s significant North Indian population ahead of the BMC polls. Out of the total 236 seats in the polls, a sizeable population of North Indians is present in 40-50 seats of suburban Mumbai.

Both the Shiv Sena and, later, the MNS, grew in influence in Maharashtra with an anti-migrant stance — the Sena’s vocal anti-migrant stand has softened only in the past few years.

Thackeray’s visit to Ayodhya came less than a month after his uncle, MNS founder Raj Thackeray, called off his visit to the temple town after a BJP MP, Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, demanded an apology for his belligerent anti-migrant stand.  

Both Thackeray and Raut said that they had spoken to the MP before the visit. 

“We’re all [descendants of Lord Ram],” Thackeray said. “We’ve spoken to him [Brijbhushan Sharan Singh]. The talks were held in good humour and he welcomed us, but our relationship is with the people here and with Lord Ram,” he said. 

He added that the BJP MP’s opposition to Raj Thackeray’s visit had nothing to do with the Shiv Sena party.  

“The entire country saw that in Covid times, we served people from UP, Bihar, Telangana and all other states,” Thackeray told the press during his visit. “Whether someone is welcomed or not, we don’t have anything to do with it. Our party workers served the people even at the cost of their own lives.” 

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: BJP stoking communal issues with eye on 2024 polls, says Shiv Sena on Gyanvapi mosque row



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