Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray said Sunday even though the party was not too keen on pulling the plug on its alliance with the BJP, Sainiks should be prepared to fight the municipal elections in the state on their own strength.
“I still do not know what will happen about the alliance. This alliance was on the issue of Hindutva and the Sena worked honestly in maintaining this alliance. I will decide on the future of the alliance but I want you to be prepared to win elections on our own strength,” Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said while addressing party workers at the NSE Grounds in Goregaon to mark the party’s 50 years.
The Sena has been in an uneasy power-sharing alliance with the BJP, which was visible by the loud boos that Sainiks uttered after Thackeray spoke about an alliance with the BJP. It has been trying to reassert its political identity ahead of the crucial BMC polls in 2017 and the Assembly elections in 2019.
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Thackeray added that even though he was not keen on breaking the alliance, he wanted to flesh out a relationship in which Sena’s self-respect was maintained. “We want an alliance where our self-respect will be maintained. The Sena will not run after you. I do not want to break this alliance, but the Sena will not accept an unequal alliance,” Thackeray said during his 45-minute speech.
He also said the Shiv Sena would one day attain power on its own strength in the state.
“We may be a regional party but we are an original party. We have not herded deserters from other parties together to seek power. People ask me it has been 50 years but the party has still not been able to win on its own. We will be in power on our own in the near future. The Sena has never run after power or sacrificed its principles,” Thackeray said, taking a snipe at the BJP.
He said various issues that had been taken up by national parties, including the Ram Janmabhumi agitation and the displacement of Kashmiri Pandits, were never completely addressed.
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“In Uttar Pradesh, you have the BJP talking about how Kairana is turning into Kashmir. What are you doing? You are in power at the Centre and in Kashmir too.
If Balasaheb Thackeray could provide protection to Kashmir Pandits sitting here in Mumbai, why can’t you do the same in Kairana,” Thackeray questioned.
He said the BJP seemed to have backtracked on various promises that it had made to the electorate before coming to power. He said the Sena was not explicitly challenging the BJP as it did not want to create a rift in Hindutva supporters.
“Our concern in the past has always been that the Hindutva votes should not split. For this reason, we have never fought elections outside the state. Even in Maharashtra, for so many years, we had given the BJP the space and support in constituencies that it was fighting,” Thackeray added.
He also took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said the head of the country as well as chief ministers of states should not be allowed to campaign during elections.
The Sena chief lambasted the government and said situation in the country had remained the same. “There may be calls about the country changing, but the situation remains the same. China is intruding on our borders, terror attacks from Pakistan remain unabated, inflation is increasing. I do not want to criticise Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, but he should control price rise and take my ministers’ help in handing this crisis,” Thackeray added.
He justified joining the BJP-led government in Maharashtra and said he did so to ensure that a “bad omen” was not cast on a Hindutva-inspired government. The Sena had put up a dazzling show to celebrate it 50th foundation year. It was held indoors in fear of the Mumbai rains.