Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray challenged the BJP’s chief strategist Amit Shah on elections — both civic and state assembly — hours after Sharad Pawar claimed to beat the BJP in panchayat elections on behalf of the Maha Vikas Aghadi. “We also know kushti (wrestling). We will show you who is really power,” he said. The former Chief Minister, whose government was toppled with the rebellion of current Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, with instigation from the BJP, also accused Mr Shah of instigating communal polarisation, echoing the comments of Bihar’s Tejashwi Yadav.
“I challenge Amit Shah — tell all your chelas (disciples) sitting here to hold the BMC election in a month. And if you have the guts, hold the Assembly elections at the same time,” Mr Thackeray said at a meeting to take stock of preparations for Mumbai civic polls.
“Amit Shah has asked his party to put the Shiv Sena its place in the Mumbai civic polls. I dare you to try it. Shiv Sena’s relationship with the city is unbreakable and we are deeply connected with the day-to-day life of ordinary Mumbaikars,” he added.
There was a further challenge for Mr Shah.
“I challenge Amit Shah — we will fight against all your tactics. If you play the Hindu-Muslim card, let me tell you the Muslims are with us. Even among Hindus, everyone, Marathi or non-Marathi, all are with us… Your policy of divide and rule won’t work here,” he said.
Yesterday, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav had endorsed ally Janata Dal United’s comment that Mr Shah’s visit to Bihar was meant to “spoil communal harmony”.
“Why only the JDU? The entire Bihar knows what’s his (Amit Shah’s) real purpose…The moment you take his name, the entire country starts talking about his work,” Mr Yadav had said.
The elections to the Brihanmumbai Corporation — the richest civic body in the country controlled so far by the Shiv Sena — is the next big challenge for the BJP.
The party is hoping that the split in the Sena will work in favour of new ally Eknath Shinde, and deliver the BMC in the hands of the ruling alliance. The Sena councillors in neighbouring Thane had declared allegiance to Mr Shinde days after his rebellion, in a trickle-down effect of the split that had started with the party MLAs.
Mr Thackeray indicated that he was aware of the scale of the challenge.
“I have heard PM Modi will be coming for the BMC election. They have the Home Minister, they have gaddars (traitors), they have Munna Bhai (Raj Thackeray) and we have to contest against them. I want to ask you, are you scared of them? Do we have the strength to fight against them?” he told party workers.
His strongest comments were reserved for Mr Shinde, whom he attacked over the issue of Vedanta-Foxconn investment that has gone to Gujarat.
“Eknath Shinde has gone to Delhi to do mujra (dance by courtesans). Why is he not asking the PM directly how can this project go to other state?” said Mr Thackeray, who has termed the Shinde camp “gaddars (traitors)”.
“Mumbai is the financial capital of the country and you are trying to take out these industries and taking it to your state,” he added.
He even accused the new Chief Minister of attempting to steal his father, Balasaheb Thackeray.
“I also checked if my father’s photo is there (on the dais) or not… We have heard of child lifters, but now we see people abducting fathers too,” he said, in a swipe at Mr Shinde’s claim to the legacy of Thackeray Senior.