Prime Minister Narendra Modi's description of Dadri lynching and opposition to Ghulam Ali's concert in Mumbai as "unfortunate" today led ally Shiv Sena to rake up his past when he was Chief Minister during the 2002 Gujarat riots. As the unease between Maharashtra's ruling allies BJP and Shiv Sena grew, Sena MP Sanjay Raut made a controversial reference to the post-Godhra riots, saying Modi "is known and respected due to Godhra and Ahmedabad"
Amid the widening chasm with BJP, Shiv Sena on Wednesday termed as "unfortunate" Prime Minister Narendra Modi's comments on cancellation of Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali's concert in Mumbai, reminding him of post-Godhra Gujarat riots when he was chief minister for which "he is known".
Meanwhile, BJP has called a meeting of its ministers and functionaries in Mumbai tomorrow where the worsening ties between the two parties are likely to come up for discussion.
In wry comments that may not go down well with BJP at a time when the estrangement between the two parties which share power in Maharashtra and Centre is growing, Sena MP Sanjay Raut said Modi,"is known and respected due to Godhra and Ahmedabad." The 2002 Gujarat riots have been a sore point in Modi's otherwise remarkable political career.
"The world knows Narendra Modi due to Godhra and Ahmedabad and we respect him for the same reason. If the same Narendra Modi has called the controversy surrounding Ghulam Ali and (former Pakistan minister) Khurshid Kasuri unfortunate, then it is indeed unfortunate for all of us," Raut said.
Raut was responding to Modi's comments in an interview to Bengali daily Ananda Bazar Patrika in which he had termed the Dadri lynching over suspected beef-eating and cancellation of Ghulam Ali's concert under threat from Sena as "unfortunate" but with which his government had nothing to do. "The Dadri incident or opposition to Pakistani singer is undesirable and unfortunate. But what is the central government's relation with these incidents", Modi said.
Though the official agenda for tomorrow's BJP meeting is to discuss the achievements of Devendra Fadnavis government's one year in office and ways of celebrating it, the issue of worsening ties between the ruling coalition partners would also be deliberated upon, a party functionary said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another went a step further and said the meeting will discuss the probability of snapping ties with the Sena, which had yesterday said BJP was free to opt out of the coalition government in Maharashtra if it was bored of its brand of "nationalism" and "patriotism", raising questions about the continuance of the party in the state government.
BJP leaders, including Modi, party president Amit Shah and Fadnavis have come under Sena's attack in recent times. "Though Sena is a part of the BJP government, both at Centre and in the state, it has not wasted even a single opportunity to criticise Prime minister Narendra Modi, party president Amit Shah and the BJP," another leader said, requesting anonymity.
He said BJP ministers and leaders held a closed-door meeting recently where parting ways with Sena was discussed. "We have 123 MLAs, 7 independents are with BJP, we will need 15 more legislators to prove our majority if Sena quits from the government," he said, claiming, "once the Sena quits, at least 17 to 18 of its legislators will join BJP."
However, senior BJP leader and state's education minister Vinod Tawde rejected the possibility of Sena quitting the government.
"Nobody wants to contest elections once again before completing their tenure. BJP and Sena will complete their five year tenure and nothing can affect the stability of the government," he said.
Ramdas Kadam, a Sena minister too dismissed the speculation about the party quitting the government as "mere rumour".
Relations between the two oldest saffron allies came under renewed strain when Shiv Sainiks blackened the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, a former BJP strategist and organiser of Pakistan's former foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri's book launch event on Monday.
Fadnavis had voiced serious displeasure over the incident and said the state would not be allowed to be reduced to a "banana republic".
Fadvanis's condemnation of the incident and heightened security at the function where Kasuri's book was launched on Monday evening had drawn strong reactions from Raut who said the chief minister "doesn't understand Maharashtra and is insulting the martyrs". The Sena had threatened to disrupt the event.