For the first time since its inception in 1966, the Shiv Sena concluded its traditional Dussehra Rally without party founder Bal Thackeray at the helm. It was his son and party executive president Uddhav Thackeray who addressed the crowds at Shivaji Park, packed to capacity.
Nonetheless, one could tell that the Sainiks, who would eagerly await their now-deceased patriarch’s customary speech and lampoon of politicians each of the last 48 years, missed his presence. The ovation yesterday wasn’t as ardent as the one that greeted Thackeray Sr’s send-ups.
Coming back, for the better part of Thackeray Jr’s 40-minute-long speech which began at 7.45 pm, he dwelled on Hindutva and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
But he started his speech with a crack about how the BMC had flagged the Sena’s ritual of holding the Dussehra Rally at its Shivaji Park bastion, since it is a silence zone.
“I thank the Bombay High Court for giving us permission (to hold the rally at the park). The decibel levels are a bit of a concern, but then what do I look at, decibel or my desi-bal?” Uddhav said pointing to the audience, denoting the power (bal) of the Sainiks before him.
He then proceeded to extol Modi and harp on Hindutva for more than 20 minutes. “Sena stands in full support of Modi, because donkeys are running this government and we need to pull it down. Modi has told me that he is always with me. When NDA was ruling the country, when he was elected chief minister the first time, and when everyone was opposing him, the Sena pramukh was the only one who stood beside him.”
He continued, “Get up and vote. People are calling us communal because we are supporting Modi. Let people say whatever they want to… Stop living like a goat. It’s better to live for a day like a tiger than live like a goat for a hundred days.”
Focussing on Hindutva, he said, “We are being termed communal. Is talking about Hinduism wrong? I will speak about it and will continue speaking about it. When Mumbai was burning it was we, the Sena, that took to the streets and saved the city. But it seems ‘Hindu’ has been termed an abuse. If Pawar can give a clean chit to Ishrat Jahan, why is he silent on Pragya Singh Thakur and Colonel Purohit? I had met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to talk about special preference being given to Muslims. I told him by giving preference only to Muslims they were dividing the country. The privileges should be given to everyone. I told him he’s not the prime minister of Muslims alone but of the whole nation.”
Bringing up Hyderabad-based Majlis-e-Ittihad al-Muslimin (MIM) rabble-rouser Akbaruddin Owaisi, he said, “When Owaisi speaks against the Hindus, no one speaks against him. But when a Hindu says anything, he’s termed a criminal.” He concluded his speech, saying, “I am a Hindu, I am Hindustani and I am a man. But we Hindus should show our strength. If we don’t do it now, it will be difficult for us to survive the future.”
'CM says: I will see'
“I had recently been to the chief minister’s for some work. He just says, ‘I will see, I will do something, I will appoint a committee’. We went to him with Thane’s cause, where people are staying in dangerous, dilapidated buildings. God forbid if any building collapses, the CM would be responsible. He sits on files but nothing comes of it.”
He made a barb that targeted both the Prime Minister and CM Prithviraj Chavan, to whom he’s considered close. “Manmohan Singh was in America recently. We felt he would do something but he reached there and America’s government was shut down. In our state, Prithviraj’s government has long been shut down.”
Aiming at Pawar
Targeting NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Uddhav said he was more loyal to cricket than to farmers. “Pawar is quick to comment on Modi. Why doesn’t he speak against his own nephew (Ajit Pawar)? He doesn’t go to Vidarbha because he’s more interested in becoming the president of MCA. You will see him with cricketers but never with farmers and he’s the agriculture minister!”
The government doesn’t do anything for the common man but everything to please Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. “There’s no man left in the government to stop the intrusion of China or Bangladeshi migrants. How many people in the government work for the country? I doubt any of them do. All of them work to please Sonia and Rahul.”
“Recently, I was at a business summit. I asked them, ‘How’s the government functioning?’ They said, ‘The government’s working like a prepaid SIM card where we pay money and then it works’. I told them, ‘For the common man, the SIM says it’s out of coverage area’.”