Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam has said Mumbai will come to a standstill and its people will not get food to eat if the North Indian community decides to stop working for a single day, drawing sharp reactions from the Shiv Sena and the MNS. It all began late Sunday, when Nirupam, a former MP, was attending an event organised by the North Indian community in Nagpur.
“The community should not be forced to take such a step… It is the North Indian community which shoulders the burden of the people of Mumbai,” he said.
Contending that the North Indians members were largely responsible for milk and vegetable supplies and plying autos and taxis in the city, the Mumbai party chief said: “If the community decides to not work for a single day, life in the city will come to a standstill. No one will get roti (bread), vegetables, milk, auto, taxi, and tempo services.” While the Congress was quick to distance itself from Nirupam’s comments, Shiv Sena and MNS, fanned the controversy. Apart from attacking Nirupam, both parties invoked the ‘Marathi manoos’ issue.
Sena MP Rahul Shewale said that Mumbai belonged to the ‘Marathi Manoos’, while MNS dared Nirupam to “bring Mumbai to a standstill.” Shiv Sena’s minister of state Gulabrao Patil warned Nirupam to mind his language. The NCP, which has announced plans to stitch a pre-poll pact with the Congress for the 2019 elections, also targeted Nirupam, with former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar labelling the comments as being irresponsible.
Distancing the Congress from the controversy, Maharashtra party president Ashok Chavan said Mumbai was a cosmopolitan city, and it wasn’t right to say that one community shoulders the city.
A poster, allegedly posted by an MNS worker, on social media, labelled Nirupam as a “stray dog” and accused him of making instigatory comments eyeing North Indian votes. In the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in Mumbai, where the Congress was routed, the North Indian vote had swung decisively in favour of the BJP. The trend was repeated in the civic elections in 2017.