BJP ally Shiv Sena struck a discordant note on Sunday by not only boycotting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s functions in Mumbai but also calling the foundation-laying ceremony for Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s memorial as an election ploy to woo Bihar’s Dalits.
Modi was in Mumbai to lay the foundation stone for the Ambedkar memorial at Indu Mills, two new Metro Railway lines for the suburbs and the fourth Container Terminal of the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in Navi Mumbai.
Addressing a gathering in Beed district of Marathwada, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said his party was more concerned about the welfare of farmers. He reportedly said the Sena was more committed to the farmers than to staying in power.
Sena leader Ramdas Kadam, who was accompanying Thackeray in Beed, told The Indian Express, “Is this a government function or a BJP function? If it was a government function, why were Sena leaders not properly invited? When our party chief himself was not given a proper invitation, there was no question of any of us attending the event.”
He said it appeared that the BJP was using the Ambedkar memorial event to woo the Dalits ahead of elections in Bihar. “The timing of the programme makes us believe that this is an election ploy,” he said.
Sena leaders had confirmed on Saturday that they would boycott the events, citing the “unceremonious invitation” to party chief Uddhav Thackeray at the eleventh hour, sources said.
“It would have been different if the party chief had been notified about an invitation to the event much in advance,” said a senior Shiv Sena leader.
Meanwhile, Sena leaders from Raigad also protested against the Prime Minister’s visit barely 3.5 kilometres away from the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust where Modi laid the foundation stone for a fourth container terminal. The Sena workers had joined a multi-party protest at Karad Phata, where about 500 people protested against what they called the PM’s “inability” to keep a promise he made during his last visit to JNPT, to hand over compensatory land parcels to project-affected people. Congress, MNS and the Peasants and Workers Party also protested.