Three months after it had slammed Sachin Tendulkar for saying Mumbai is for all, the Shiv Sena changed tack and supported the state government’s demand that Tendulkar be awarded the Bharat Ratna.
“Sachin definitely deserves a Bharat Ratna as he is breaking record after record, Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said at a function on organised Saturday to observe Marathi Bhaasha Diwas [Marathi Language Day].
Tendulkar, on Wednesday, became the first cricketer to score 200 runs in a one-day international.
Tendulkar had faced severe criticism from Sena chief, Bal Thackeray, in November when he said Mumbai belonged to everybody. Thackeray had lashed out at Tendulkar saying that the latter was “not even born when 105 Marathi people sacrificed their lives during the agitation for statehood for Maharashtra”.
Uddhav’s support for Tendulkar comes at a time when the party is trying hard to retain its Marathi support base. This need for appeasing the Marathi manoos also prompted the party to step up its celebrations on Marathi Bhaasha Divas.
The Sena had organised programmes to celebrate the birth anniversary of veteran Marathi litterateur and Jnanpith awardee V. W. Shirwadkar, popularly known as Kusumagraj.
The Sena hopes to beat its rival, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which has been aggressively promoting the cause of Marathi.
The Sena also launched a training academy for Marathi youth aspiring to join the civil services. Retired bureaucrat, Avinash Dharmadhikari, who joined the Sena last year, will guide the candidates. “We do not want Marathi boys to only sell vada pavs, but also want to prepare them for IAS and IPS exams,” said Uddhav.