The ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance on Tuesday said the MNS rally smacked of political opportunism, even as the saffron combine - pushed to a corner after Raj Thackeray hijacked its issue - backed the protest.
The Shiv Sena, trying to score brownie points, said the
rally was "appreciated" as it took Sena's brand of Hindutva philosophy forward.
"Raj Thackeray may not call it Hindutva, but what is 'Maharashtra dharma' that he spoke of? We refer to Hindutva as nationalism and patriotism, and so did MNS today. After all, Sena supremo Bal Thackeray first took up cudgels against Bangladeshi intruders," said Sena leader Arvind Sawant.
NCP legislator and spokesperson Nawab Malik echoed Sawant's views, but with another perspective.
"He said his rally is not communal but incited people on religious lines by targeting north Indian Muslims. He tried to wedge a split between Maharashtrian Muslims and migrant Muslims, besides trying to create tension between Dalits and Muslims. This is political opportunism at its worst," he said.
Malik pointed out that in 2006, when Thackeray was floating the MNS, he had supported Raza Academy's right to hold a rally protesting Danish cartoons of the Prophet.
Manikrao Thakre, Congress state party president, said the MNS should denounce its flag and join "non-secular forces".
Party spokesperson Sachin Sawant said: "Where was Raj Thackeray's respect for law and order when his partymen attacked innocent taxi drivers?"
The Bharatiya Janata Party also commended Thackeray, saying it was the "right protest at the right time". Senior BJP leader Vinod Tawde said he agreed with the MNS that this was not a Hindu-Muslim issue but one of Bangladeshis badgering the police. "Boosting the morale of our police force and of the common Mumbaikar was important and Thackeray did that."
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