Oops! Raj Thackeray parrots BJP script at MNS rally, sparks political ire

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A huge political row was ignited in the state on Sunday after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray’s stinging direct attack on his estranged cousin and Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, and attempt to stake a claim on Hindutva, at his large Gudi Padwa day rally, here late Saturday night.

In a Macaque-shaming somersault, Raj slammed Uddhav for not respecting the peoples’ mandate in favour of Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2019 Assembly elections and choosing to ally with Nationalist Congress Party-Congress to head the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.

“He has betrayed the peoples’ verdict. He claims there was a closed-door understanding with Amit Shah to share the post of CM. Why he remembered it only after the elections,” boomed Raj.

He also targeted Congress and NCP Presidents on various counts, blaming the latter for introducing divisive politics in the state after launching the NCP.

A strong critic of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Raj’s 2019 election meetings were an audio-visual treat as he barked ‘Laav re te video’ (Play that Video) and carried out a serial expose on the saffron party amidst thunderous applause, but managed to get only one MLA elected.

On Saturday, an apparently weary Raj urged the gathering of ‘Hindus’ “not to forget” his sermons, give an opportunity to the MNS to rule the state 2024 and help take it towards progress.

He also demanded that the MVA government should immediately ban loudspeakers at mosques or he would counter them by playing Hanuman Chalisa at double volume near the mosques.

As expected, top MVA leaders starting with Sena MP Sanjay Raut, NCP chief Pawar, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, Supriya Sule, Congress’ Nana Patole, Ashok Chavan, Atul Londhe, ex-Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar and others clobbered Raj Thackeray for his unbridled remarks.

Surprisingly, Asaduddin Owaisi, President of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) – which recently sought an alliance with the MVA but was spurned – issued a gag order on his party from reacting to the MNS chief’s comments.

Referring to the MNS head’s flip-flops vis-a-vis the BJP in the past, Pawar Sr knowingly said in Solapur that Raj is ‘inconsistent’, who says things and scoots for 3-4 months after that.

Raut charged Raj with being a ‘megaphone’ of the BJP who has cut his wisdom-teeth belatedly and wondered why he chose to raise the MVA government formation after two-and-half years.

Taking a swipe at Raj’s infamous ED notice in August 2019 and his succulent grilling for over 9 hours by the agency sleuths, an amused Sule asked whether he got ‘scared’ of just one ED notice.

In a pointed comment, Congress’ chief spokesperson Atul Londhe said Raj’s politics started with a ‘development agenda’ and had now come full circle with Hindutva and communalism.

“This shows his frustration at not being able to make a mark in politics for so long. He has to abuse other parties to show his own relevance,” Londhe said.

Raut said if Raj feels Pawar was playing communal politics, then why did he keep going and falling at his feet in the past, and said instead of speaking about the good works done by the MVA, he had resorted to needless attacks.

NCP chief spokesperson Mahesh Tapase took a jibe pointing out how Raj’s speeches have entertainment value, but are ‘directionless’, obstructing his supporters from creating a ‘political space’ for themselves, and others termed Raj as BJP’s ‘C Team’.

Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis, without displaying emotions, wholeheartedly lauded Raj saying how those who are capable of forming the government are abandoned and three parties (MVA) are running the regime, while BJP President Chandrakant Patil said he was reminded of the late Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray.

Considered a die-hard supporter of Modi in the past, Raj once visited Gujarat and sang paeans of the ‘model’ development there, but later became a bitter critic of the BJP and Modi after the MNS was shunned by all groups for alliance in the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

Raj again seemed to have changed stance after getting an ED notice in August 2019 and a long-drawn interrogation, after which he ‘reformed’ the party, adopted a new flag and symbol, sharpened its Hindutva credentials, hobnobbed with the BJP leaders and strived at shedding his ‘pariah’ status.

Currently, with the MVA under pressure with an ex-minister Anil Deshmukh and a sitting minister Nawab Malik ensnared by the ED and the upcoming civic elections across the state, Raj has bared his fangs and claws at an opportune time, hoping for a big bite in the local body polls with help from the BJP.

The MNS spokesperson Sandip Deshpande took strong umbrage at the barrage of criticism and calling Raj as the BJP’s ‘C Team’, while party activists launched an agitation playing high-decibel Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers near a mosque in Ghatkopar, giving tense moments to the police on the first day of the holy month of Ramzan.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)

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