Kasuri’s book launch yesterday was a face-saver for the party after Ghulam Ali’s concert in the city had to be cancelled following Shiv Sena protests last week
For the BJP, it was a clear victory that former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri's book launch went off without a hitch yesterday. The Shiv Sena, on the other hand, seemed to have lost the plot and was conspicuously absent at the launch despite its threats of disrupting the event.
Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri's book launch took place without any hiccups, despite Sena’s threats. Pic/Sameer Markande
Last week, it was the BJP that was left red-faced after the Sena forced the cancellation of a performance by Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali, despite the CM’s assurance that security would be provided. The Sena had said that Pakistan was waging war against India, and the two countries could not have any cultural ties.
Voicing the same objection to Kasuri’s book launch, the party once again threatened to protest in ‘Sena style’ unless the event was called off. The Observer Research Foundation (ORF), which was organising the event, wrote to the CM asking for security. This time too, the CM said protection would be provided.
Last morning, with hours to go before the show, protestors turned up at the home of ORF chief Sudheendra Kulkarni and splashed black ink on his face. According to sources, this is when the BJP swung into action, and CM Devendra Fadnavis had a hard talk with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Sena members also claimed that Fadnavis had called Thackeray, asking the Sena to turn the protests a notch down. The BJP, however, did not confirm this. According to plan, the event took place at Worli’s Nehru Centre and the book ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insiders Account of Pakistan's Foreign Policy’ was launched without any disruption. The Sena, however, denied that it had abandoned its protest.
“We haven’t called off the protest. Instead, we will be going ahead with it,” said Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said. “There is no change in heart. Our policy remains the same and the protest against Pakistan will go on. We are patriots,” said Sena MLA Sunil Shinde, who was also a signatory to the threat letter sent to the venue.
However, Shinde remained tight-lipped on why the party did not protest at the event, only denying that it was because of fear or pressure. “It is not true that we did not protest because of the fear of police action. We are in no way scared of the police. We are Shiv Sainiks who have always been in the forefront. Police cases don't scare us,” he said.
Post the event, BJP Mumbai spokesperson Niranjan Shetty said, “The aim of the government is to maintain law and order and that is what we are doing. Nobody in this state should feel threatened by anyone.
We are a government that treats everyone the same. The chief minister also categorically mentioned that he would not let anything happen to our foreign guest.”
Sudheendra Kulkarni was hailed for continuing with the event despite the ink-splashing incident in the morning. When asked about it, he told mid-day, “The event was took place the way we had planned. This in itself is an answer to all.”
Trouble over saffron T-shirt
According to an ORF insider, there was a rumour that some Shiv Sainiks had entered the venue. But when cops were unable to identify any Sainiks in the room, the police began to question anyone who had turned up in saffron-coloured clothes. This reporter was also wearing a T-shirt of the same colour, and was taken outside the hall and asked to show his ID card. Once the cops were sure that he wasn’t from the Sena, he was allowed in.