Ratcheting up his criticism of the BJP-led government at the Centre, Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray Monday took potshots at Prime Minister Narendra Modi by borrowing, for the first time, the “chowkidar-chor-hai” phrase often invoked by the Congress. The Shiv Sena has always been a strong BJP ally, though the two fought the Assembly elections separately in 2014.
Addressing a rally of Shiv Sainiks in the temple town of Pandharpur, Uddhav recounted a meeting in Beed with a farmer who showed him a lime tree — normally used to keep off pests — itself getting infested. I told him, “Halli paharekarich chorya karaylaa laagale aahet. (Today, security persons have themselves become thieves),” he said. Paharekari is the Marathi word for chowkidar (in Hindi) or security person.
Uddhav also targeted Modi for what he described as his ‘jumle baazi’. “The Prime Minister recently said he will help double your income by 2022. Later, after the elections he will say it was jumle baazi,” he said.
He ridiculed the Prime Minister’s Mann Ki Baat programme, saying it was being manipulated to highlight the government’s welfare scheme. “This was proved by a TV channel which exposed it. The journalist was made to lose his job,” Uddhav said.
While the Sena has been sulking for having been handed over poor portfolios in the Union Cabinet, Uddhav has upped the ante now for a better seat-sharing formula, not just for the Lok Sabha polls four months from now but also for the Assembly elections in Maharashtra due later this year. The latest jibes come just when the BJP, smarting from its poll setbacks, has made fresh overtures to the Sena for a pre-poll alliance.
In a 45-minute speech in Maharashtra’s most revered temple town, exactly one month since he visited Ayodhya, Uddhav repeatedly asked how can the Sena be expected to partner with a party that has not kept its promises — on Hindutva and on the agrarian crisis.
For the Assembly, Sena is keen that it gets 50 per cent or 144 seats. The Sena has 63 seats in the 288-strong Maharashtra House. The BJP has 121. Though he said he would not speak about the alliance, Thackeray urged Sainiks to put in their might to bring a Sena government at the helm. “If regional parties have come to power in Mizoram and Telangana, why can’t it happen in Maharashtra,” he said.
Referring to the Rafale “scam,” Uddhav expressed surprise at the clean chit given by the Supreme Court. “Our soldiers are not getting better pay hike and here the government is trying to work in the interest of a private company,” he said, adding the company had no experience of making jets yet the government handed it the contract.
Alleging that another scam was brewing in the crop insurance scheme, Uddhav claimed that like Rafale, benefits of thousands of crores of rupees were being extended to private companies which had no experience in it. “Then why don’t you hand over bullet making contract to self help groups,” he quipped.
On the Ram temple, Uddhav said, “People ask me why I went to Ayodhya. I went there to awaken the Kumbhakaran… If the Kumbhakaran does not wake up, then fired-up Hindus will awaken him.” Ridiculing the claim of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, “The UP CM says Ram Mandir tha, Ram Mandir hai, Ram Mandir rahega…but mandir kub dikhega…”
Uddhav slammed both the Central and state governments over the plight of farmers. “Show me one farmer who has benefited,” he said, “I will keep raising my voice for the farmers. If they have the guts, they should punish me.”