The Shiv Senas latest attempt to raise the pitch on the Mumbai-for-Maharashtrians issue boomeranged today with chief Bal Thackeray drawing flak from across the nation for criticising Sachin Tendulkar over his remarks that Mumbai belonged to all Indians.
In an open letter addressed to the cricket icon in the Sena mouthpiece Saamna,Thackeray slammed Tendulkar for saying that Mumbai could not be monopolised and that all Indians had an equal right over it. Criticising Tendulkar for hurting Marathi sentiments,Thackeray advised him to stick to cricket and not venture into politics through his statements.
Sachin,the Marathi mind has shattered after hearing this. Was there any need? Was it necessary to say this when everyone is poised to grab Mumbai? Why did you take this cheeky-single while talking about your Marathi pride? Here you are run out on the pitch of Marathi Manoos, Thackeray wrote.
Mumbai may be the economic capital of the country,but dont forget that it is the capital of Maharashtra first… Sachin,remember,when you strike fours and sixes people applaud,but if your tongue continues to bat against the nyaya hakk (justice and rights) of Marathi Manoos,then the Marathi Manoos would never tolerate it. Hence,I want to give you an affectionate warning for the moment that dont lose on the political pitch whatever you have earned on the cricket pitch.
Thackerays comments came at a time when the Sena and his estranged nephew Raj Thackerays Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) are engaged in a game of one-upmanship to woo Maharashtrians. While the criticism of Tendulkar seemed to be aimed at cornering the MNS,it backfired on the Sena as it invited condemnation from across the country.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said: Sachin Tendulkar is from Maharashtra,but he plays for India. We are Indians first and then anything else. Sachins remarks will unite the country.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav slammed Thackeray for his parochialism. Sachin Tendulkar is a national hero and Thackeray has no moral authority to comment on him, he said. Who is Bal Thackeray to comment about him?
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar praised Tendulkar: His remarks have lifted the prestige of the country. He is revered as a great cricketer,now he will be respected as a good human being,a good citizen.
Even Sena ally BJP distanced itself from Thackeray on this issue,saying nobody could object to Tendulkars stand. Sachin is fully correct. I dont think anybody can have objection to it. India is proud of him and he is proud of being an Indian, said Arun Jaitley,Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha,told reporters.
Union Minority Affairs Minister and Congressman Salman Khurshid,taking a swipe at the Shiv Sena leader,said Tendulkar had bowled out Thackeray.
Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said Thackerays reaction deserves to be condemned in the strongest possible manner… It is an assault on the very idea of India. They cant understand a simple thing that there is no contradiction between a proud Indian and a proud Marathi or a proud Punjabi or anybody from any region.
BCCI member Rajiv Shukla said: This is the same language that Mohammed Ali Jinnah spoke. The whole of India and all Maharashtrians,excluding a few Shiv Sena leaders and leaders of Raj Thackerays party,are with Tendulkar. These kind of comments are completely uncalled for.
CPI general secretary A B Bardhan said: I agree with Sachin one hundred per cent. I think Thackeray is going beyond his limit.