BJP vs Shiv Sena: A contest of protests in Mumbai

Basking in the limelight after Sunday’s protests against Salman Khan’s controversial tweet, the BJP claims it takes Mumbai’s issues more seriously than Shiv Sena; the Sena in turn claims it taught BJP how to protest

Whether it was Mumbai’s nightlife or LED lights at Marine Drive, the recent past has seen the BJP and Shiv Sena trade punches over several issues. However, while it may have been content playing second fiddle to Sena in the city earlier, the BJP seems to have adopted a more aggressive approach recently, keeping a firm gaze on the BMC elections in 2017.

Also read: How has the film industry made a fool like Salman Khan their icon: BJP

Case in point, Sunday’s protest that followed Salman’s Khan tweet on 1993 Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon, over which the BJP even approached the Governor seeking cancellation of the actor’s bail in the 2002 hit-and-run case, as mid-day had reported yesterday (‘How has the film industry made such a fool their icon?’).

BJP workers protest outside actor Salman Khan’s house on Sunday, demanding an apology after he posted tweets in favour of 1993 blasts convict Yakub Memon. Pic/PTI
BJP workers protest outside actor Salman Khan’s house on Sunday, demanding an apology after he posted tweets in favour of 1993 blasts convict Yakub Memon. Pic/PTI

With 15 MLAs – one more than the Shiv Sena – the BJP is flexing its political muscle in Mumbai like never before. Following the anti-Salman protest, the party now claims that they take Mumbai’s issues more seriously than the Sena. Shiv Sainiks, on the other hand, claim the BJP has learnt to be aggressive from them.

“We have always been protesting more than Shiv Sena; it’s just that the media never paid attention. To prove my claim, one can go and check the number of cases registered against our party workers at police stations across Mumbai and Maharashtra. Since our formation, we have been protesting on various issues and we have outperformed many parties in taking up the causes of the common public,” said Mumbai BJP’s chief spokesperson, Niranjan Shetty.

While the BJP basks in the publicity from Sunday’s protest, Shiv Sena corporator Avkash Jadhav claims that Salman’s tweets were not worthy of such attention. In spite of his claims, Shiv Sainiks in Satara had temporarily halted the screening of the actor’s latest movie, Bajrangi Bhaijaan.

'What’s the point?'
“Firstly, I do not understand what was the point of the BJP protesting against Salman’s tweet, because by the time they went to protest, he had already retracted it and even apologised. Secondly, since inception our party has aggressively protested against the problems plaguing common public. It’s good if the BJP is learning from our example. We hope that they protest more and take up various such issues,” Jadhav said.

A senior Sena leader said that while the BJP was in the limelight for the protest, it was Sainiks who had first protested against the 1993 blasts, for which convict Yakub Memon is on death row.

“On Sunday, the protest may have acted in BJP’s favour, but we had protested against every aspect related to the 1993 bomb blasts before. But yes, it cannot be denied that people did expect the same from Shiv Sena. However, things are changing within our party now as well,” the leader said.

That the Sena is also using different tactics is evident from the way they dealt with the fracas over the open-air gyms (‘Gym jam: Day after Aaditya Thackeray inaugurates gyms, BMC tears down one on Marine Drive’, mid-day, July 17). After Congress MLA Nitesh Rane said he’d raze the gym if the BMC didn’t, the Sena’s response was unusually tranquil. The party mostly turned to legal recourse to answer Rane. Sainiks had put up instigating posters against him, but senior leaders asked that the posters be removed as they were giving Rane undue importance.

A BJP leader also noted the change in the approach of the BJP and Sena. “One would see us doing more social work and while the protests would be handled by the Sena, but now it’s the opposite. We are on streets protesting and Sena is organising blood donation camps,” he said, referring to a blood donation drive held by Sena yesterday, to mark party chief Uddhav Thackeray’s birth anniversary.

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