The echoes of Marathi asmita (pride) are getting shriller as the Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena and MNS decide to intensify their campaign against “outsider” Narendra Modi. With the Assembly elections for 288 seats in Maharashtra centred around the “insider versus outsider” rhetoric yet again, parties opposing the BJP have decided to train guns at the prime minister.
In poll meetings, most top leaders – NCP president Sharad Pawar, former CM and Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan, senior Congress leader Narayan Rane, MNS president Raj Thackeray and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray – have taken a decision to target Modi since he does not belong to the state.
The PM, who arrived in the state Saturday, will hold 23 public rallies between October 4 and October 10 across western Maharashtra, Marathwada, Konkan, north Maharashtra and Vidarbha.
A political manager from the Congress said, “The BJP has made Modi its mascot and star campaigner. We will definitely attack him to counter his aggressive campaign.”
A senior Sena MP confided, “We have to assert ourselves by stepping up the attack on Modi. We have to keep hammering that Modi did nothing to save the Sena-BJP alliance. We won’t launch personal attacks, but we will drive home the alliance point. This would help us to consolidate our base among the sons of the soil.”
The MNS leadership is also keeping the “Marathi manoos” issue alive. Party president Raj Thackeray Saturday stoked the debate when he said that the state’s interests would be best served by leaders from Maharashtra.
However, unlike in the past when Shiv Sena and MNS attacked people from north Indian – especially Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – the aggression this time would be focused on Modi.
In separate rallies on Saturday, top leadership of the Congress, NCP, Sena and MNS exhorted people to guard their “Marathi asmita” and warned against “outsiders” who try and tell the state how to move ahead.
Urging farmers to ensure that their rights are protected, Pawar Saturday suggested that the state’s welfare should be left to those who have served them for the past 15 years.
In Vidarbha, Uddhav took on Modi and the BJP, warning people against “trespassers” and saying, “It’s my responsibility to look after your welfare in Maharashtra. I will provide you education, health and houses. I will look after your interests in employment.”
He added, “Every individual should guard himself against intruders on the home turf.” In a veiled suggestion that Modi puts the interest of Gujarat ahead of others, he said, “The PM never belongs of any state. The PM should belong to the entire nation.”
In Marathwada, the MNS chief cited the example of a Maharashtrian industrial who went to Himachal Pradesh to set up an industry.
“The government in HP set defined guidelines wherein it was mandatory that employment would be from the local region as determined by the state. Look how their leaders protect the interest of their bhoomiputra (sons of the soil). Here, everybody looks at state as a milking cow.”
State BJP president Devendra Fadnavis said, “Every party has the right to decide what they should say during elections. But people are sensible and they know Modi is sincerely working for the development of India. And Modiji is committed to the development and welfare of Maharashtra.”