With Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra over, the Shiv Sena has taken potshots at the Gujarati community, traditionally seen to be close to its ally, the BJP, and questioned why Gujarati businessmen who support Narendra Modi don’t celebrate Maharashtra Day.
In a stinging editorial in its mouthpiece Saamna, the party has accused these businessmen of exploiting Mumbai “like a prostitute”. “All these traders who have been saying they are happy with their businesses and have nothing to do with politics came together to ensure that a person from their state and caste becomes the prime minister. But how many of them have ever stepped out of their highrises to celebrate Maharashtra Day,” it said.
“Living in Mumbai, they have enjoyed the benefits of the wealth. They have filled their coffers. They have exploited Mumbai like a prostitute. People who came here carrying a lota have created cities of gold for themselves. On the strength of this wealth created from Mumbai, these industrialists are manipulating Indian polity. They are scheming who should be made the prime minister and who should be brought down,” said the editorial.
“The Gujarati and other trader communities which came together with pride for Modi should now come together for Shivaji Maharaj’s Maharashtra and celebrate the birth of this state,” it said.
Naming the Gujarati-dominated areas in the city, it said, “Rich people from Malabar Hill, Walkeshwar, Cuffe Parade, Colaba and Juhu have never participated in Maharashtra Day celebrations.” May 1 is celebrated as Maharashtra Day to mark the formation of the state after the division of Bombay state on May 1, 1960, into Gujarat and Maharashtra.
While stating that the population of Maharashtra has increased from 3.5 crore to 11 crore since 1960, the editorial said, “There are people among these 11 crore who have come from outside to bankrupt this state. They are not concerned if this state exists or not.”
The uncharacteristic outburst by the Sena against the Gujarati community, a sturdy supporter of the Sena-BJP alliance, has surprised many. It is being attributed to the strained ties between the Sena and BJP.
The BJP, meanwhile, was guarded in its response. “There is no need to compare communities. One cannot compare Balasaheb Thackeray’s work with Atal Behari Vajpayee or Narendra Modi. All Mumbaikars, whether they are Gujaratis or Marathis, respect these icons,” said senior BJP leader Kirit Somaiya, himself a Gujarati.
The Gujarati community, however, criticised the Sena’s statement. “Most of the development in Mumbai has been possible because of Gujarati entrepreneurs and traders… The statement is ridiculous and meant to divide society,” said entrepreneur and community leader Viren Shah.
The Shiv Sena sought to make amends with senior party leader Subhash Desai saying it was not an attack on the Gujarati community.