The BJP on Monday snubbed its alliance partner, the Shiv Sena, by extending support to India-Pakistan cricket ties. Top state BJP leaders said they believed sports cannot be mixed with politics. However, the party also indicated that the Shiv Sena was an independent party with its own “anti-Pakistan agenda”.
“The BJP does not agree with the Shiv Sena’s view to disallow India-Pakistan cricket matches. Our government will provide security if such a match takes place in Mumbai,” BJP state chief Raosaheb Danve said.
At around 10.30 am, with half-an-hour to go for a meeting between BCCI president Shashank Manohar and Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shahryar Khan to discuss potential bilateral cricket ties between the two countries, over 50 Sena activists stormed through the gates of Wankhede Stadium and barged into the BCCI cricket centre, shouting slogans and waving black and saffron flags.
However, Shiv Sena’s decision to barge into the BCCI office to protest against India-Pakistan cricket matches is also being seen as a move to unsettle NCP president Sharad Pawar, who has a major say in cricket affairs.
“The growing nexus between the BJP and the NCP central leadership has irked the Shiv Sena. They have chosen a way to register their protest on the pretext of India-Pakistan cricket ties,” a source said.
The Sena activists also confronted Manohar, demanding that he cancel the talks, while flashing placards that read, “Go back Shahryar Khan” and “Pakistan Murdabad” among others. A senior Sena official said, “Manohar may be the official president of the BCCI. But it is no secret that he is also close to Pawar. Moreover, Pawar is the president of the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA).”
Notwithstanding the internal politics, what emerged was the Shiv Sena’s renewed aggression to use every event related to Pakistan as a convenient forum to stage demonstrations.
However, both Sena and BJP leaders in private conceded, “Our differences relate to politics. But in government, we are guided by the common minimum agenda. The public mandate is for BJP-Sena government.”
Interestingly, the Shiv Sena did not indulge in any violence unlike in the past. Sources in the Sena said, “We wanted to put across our views before the newly appointed BCCI president. He gave us a patient hearing and assured to look into the matter. So, why should we attack him physically.”
However, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had issued clear directives to the police and also conveyed to the Shiv Sena that they will have to face the consequences of taking law and order into their hands.
Last week, Fadnavis said, “Our democracy allows indviduals and groups to express their views. But when in the name of protest, someone takes the law in hand it will have to be dealt sternly.”