At a time when the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance is taking out Savarkar Gaurav Yatra across Maharashtra, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray has dared the saffron party to fulfil late Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar’s dream of “Akhand Bharat.”
Addressing the first rally of Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar, formerly Aurangabad, days after communal violence, Thackeray targeted BJP and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde over the Savarkar Gaurav Yatra, saying the “sacred saffron (flag) doesn’t look good in their hands.”
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“Savarkar suffered rigorous imprisonment and hardships for the Independence of the country and not to make Modi the prime minister. Will you fulfil Savarkar’s dream of Akhand Bharat?” Thackeray asked.
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar and his counterparts from Congress Balasaheb Thorat and Ashok Chavan also spoke on the occasion.
The MVA comprises Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasahedb Thackeray) NCP, and Congress.
“The BJP and (Eknath) Shinde-led Shiv Sena should follow the ideals of Savarkar and Sardar Patel. Some time back, Amit Shah had asked BJP in Maharashtra to show Uddhav Thackeray his place. This is my place. But when will you show us the place in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK)?” he asked.
Calling the BJP a “bhrasht” (corrupt) party, Thackeray alleged that the BJP attacks Opposition leaders with corruption charges, but doesn’t flinch while inducting the same people into the party.
“They attack Opposition leaders with corruption charges and induct them into their party. So all corrupt leaders are now in the BJP,” Thackeray said.
Swipe at Modi
The former chief minister also took a swipe at Prime Minister Modi over his remarks that some people were hell-bent to sully his image and they have given a “supari” (contract) for this purpose.
“Who is doing that (tarnishing the image)? Opposition leaders are being questioned by central probe agencies and they are called corrupt. The BJP wants to finish off all political parties except their party. They feel nobody should ask them any questions. This is a threat to democracy and we are moving towards dictatorship,” Thackeray said.
He also took a dig at the prime minister over the issue of his educational degrees, days after Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was fined ₹25,000 by the high court for seeking details of Modi’s degree.
“Any college will be proud if one of its students has become the prime minister of the country. When I became the chief minister and NCP’s Jayant Patil a minister in my government, both of us were felicitated by our alma mater Balmohan Vidyamandir in Mumbai because they felt it was a proud moment for the institution,” he recalled.
Thackeray said though the name of Shiv Sena and the poll symbol “bow and arrow” were taken away from him (by the Election Commission), the support of people cannot be purchased with money.
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Addressing the audience, Thackeray said this support should reflect in all future elections.
“We have to protect our democracy and our Constitution,” he said.
He said the MVA came into being as a post-poll alliance to form a government (after the 2019 Maharashtra assembly elections) but all three parties have come closer after losing power.
Why no Bharat Ratna for Savarkar? asks NCP
Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar said the Savarkar Gaurav Yatra reflected the hypocrisy of the ruling parties and questioned why the BJP was not conferring Bharat Ratna on the ideologue.
“Whatever was said about Savarkar, the issue is settled. We are not against the Gaurav Yatra, but why were these people silent when Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was insulted?” he asked.
Pawar said the joint rallies of MVA were planned after the alliance government was formed (in November 2019) but the plan didn’t materialise due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Later the government was toppled (in June 2022),” he added.
“If the manner in which the MVA government was pulled down is accepted, there can never be political stability in the country,” he said in an apparent reference to the EC recognising the Eknath Shinde faction as the real Shiv Sena and allotting it the “bow and arrow” symbol.
Pawar said the people of Marathwada should not forget that the Shinde-led government disrespected freedom fighters who fought for the liberation of the Marathwada region during the 75th anniversary of the Mukti Sangram or liberation struggle.
He alleged the communal riots in Aurangabad city were engineered to ensure the MVA rally doesn’t take place. “All these issues were raked up to deflect attention from unemployment and price rise,” the former deputy chief minister said.
Pawar claimed the Shinde-led government was making a mockery of farmers.
He said the MVA unity can be successful at the grassroots if all three parties- Congress, NCP, and Shiv Sena (UBT) unite.
NCP leader Dhananjay Munde said the Savarkar Yatra was announced out of fear of the MVA unity.
‘Even an earthquake cannot shake the MVA’
Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat said despite the coronavirus pandemic, the MVA government spared no effort to ensure the welfare of people and development work.
Munde and Thorat alleged those who speak against the government have to face probes by central agencies.
“Political opponents also have to face disqualification as legislators,” they alleged.
Thorat said the Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Rahul Gandhi highlighted issues facing the common man and all allies of Congress participated in the recently-held walkathon.
“Rahul Gandhi questioned the relationship between (businessman) Adani and Narendra Modi. But his speech was expunged from Parliamentary proceedings. He wasn’t allowed to speak on the allegations against him over his speech in the UK,” Thorat claimed.
Senior Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan said even an earthquake cannot shake the MVA.
He said Congress had joined the MVA to stop the BJP.
“The way the MVA government was toppled is a threat to democracy. Uddhav Thackeray was a good leader of MVA who took everyone along,” Chavan said.
He said Marathwada joined Maharashtra after liberation from the State of Hyderabad without any pre-condition but the Shinde government didn’t bother to move a resolution paying tribute to the freedom fighters to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation struggle.
“Will you forgive the people who toppled the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government and disqualified Rahul Gandhi as a MP for asking questions?” he asked.
(With inputs from agencies)