Shiv Sena downplays PM's snub ahead of seat-sharing decision

Updated: Sep 21, 2019, 07:20 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

Sena, otherwise known to respond aggressively through its mouthpiece Saamana, was unusually calm this time around

Uddhav Thackeray
Uddhav Thackeray

The Shiv Sena, known to take jibes at the Opposition and its ally — the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) — through its mouthpiece Saamana, chose to downplay PM Narendra Modi's recent snubbing of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray over his demand for construction of Ram Mandir in Ayodhya.

Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said his wasn't bayaanbaji (making unwarranted statements) and avoided an aggressive retort. The newspaper reported Modi's barb in a very mild manner without reproducing the words 'badbole and bayan bahadur' (bigmouths) that was intentionally used for the Sena chief.

Modi had called the party leaders badbole, bayaan bahadur in Nashik on Thursday and appealed to them to have trust in the Supreme Court, which is expected to deliver a verdict soon. "I wonder why some badbole and bayaan bahadur are making unwarranted statements over Ram Mandir. People are expected to have respect for and trust in the Supreme Court and Dr Ambedkar's constitution. The court is hearing everyone. I wonder where these bayaan bahadurs have come from? Why are they creating hurdles? I request them to keep their eyes shut for the sake of Prabhu Ram and respect the country's judiciary," he said without naming Thackeray.

'Will stop if PM says so'

Thackeray said he had spoken on behalf of the Hindus when he demanded to expedite construction of Ram Mandir and make a law to facilitate it. "I have faith in the judiciary. But the case has been running for too long. I will go to Ayodhya again," he said, adding that he was ready to hold on if the PM felt that the court would decide the dispute very soon.

In the past, Saamana had never missed an opportunity to get even with the BJP and its top leadership, calling them names. Saamana has been criticising the BJP government in the state and Centre despite its promoters being associates in Delhi and Mumbai. 

Friday's studied silence cannot be truly called rapprochement, but it seemed a cautious approach to bag maximum seats for the upcoming Assembly elections, said a Sena leader, adding that the silence showed that the Sena was on a weak turf. A day after PM's Nashik meeting, the Sena senior leadership went into a huddle on Friday at Dadar's party headquarters. Senior leader Anil Desai told media persons that the Sena leaders would discuss a way forward in terms of poll preparations.

When asked about uncertainty over the alliance, Thackeray said that there was no issue left to be resolved. "We had decided the pact before the Lok Sabha polls. But this time, we have decided to be different in our approach. We want CM (Fadnavis) to declare our list of candidates as well. This isn't sarcasm as some have reported," said the Sena president at a media conference, adding that the next two days were crucial for the making the final announcement.

Amit Shah is expected to iron out differences and fine-tune the sharing on September 22 (Sunday) in Mumbai where he is scheduled to address BJP workers on the abrogation of Article 370 from Jammu and Kashmir. Since Kashmir issue would be the main poll plank for the BJP, party workers would get a line of presentation from the party's national president.

Apart from Ram Mandir, the Aarey land dispute and the proposed revival of a chemical refinery at Nanar have been a bone of contention between the two.

Other controversial issues

A Sena minister had put on hold implementation of Motor Vehicles Act without consulting the CM. The infuriation intensified, particularly in the Sena camp, but a sense of profitability of going with BJP in the Assembly polls, has kept the hopes alive for the alliance.

Commenting on Aarey, Thackeray said that his party wasn't opposed to development but had reasons to seek relocation of a metro car depot. "We also oppose Nanar refinery for the same reasons (environment and locals' protest)," he said, suggesting that if the government was going to review the Nanar proposal, then people would lose trust in the current government.

He said the Sena did not ditch the BJP government which has been in minority in the past five years. "We were asked about our minister's resignations (when differences cropped up time and again). The Sena has been with the BJP all along," he said, commenting on the PM's appeal for ensuring a majority for the BJP.

MNS to contest polls

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) may contest 100 seats on its own this year. Party chief Raj Thackeray held a meeting of party leaders on Friday and explored the idea of fielding candidates at 100 places where it has a presence.

MNS had been in talks with NCP for an alliance but since the Congress didn't want it, the Sharad Pawar-led party had to give up the thought.

Raj had made the Lok Sabha poll campaign interesting by addressing independent rallies in some parts of the state. His power-point presentations and scathing attack on the BJP attracted sizeable crowds to his speeches but the influence didn't convert into votes for the opposition.

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