Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray apologised on Saturday for a cartoon published in ‘Saamana’ alluding to the Maratha rallies that had sparked a controversy, with the party drawing the ire of the community, political parties and an attack on an office of the newspaper.
The controversial cartoon had appeared in last Sunday’s edition of Sena mouhtpiece and apparently referred to the “silent marches” being taken out all over the state by the Maratha community to press for their demands like quota in jobs and education.
“The controversy over the cartoon may have died down, but my heart is still in a state of turmoil. I am deeply hurt because a Shiv Sainik can never humiliate women, whom we worship. I am thankful to the people who did not let their trust in the Sena dwindle due to the controversy that had been generated,” Thackeray told a press conference in Mumbai.
“As president of Shiv Sena and editor of ‘Saamana’, I apologise to all mothers and sisters, who may have been inadvertently hurt by the cartoon. But, the cartoon never intended to disrespect anybody,” he said.
Notably, the Maratha rallies stood out for overwhelming participation of women from the community.
Asked about the delay in tendering the apology, he said, “I was watching who all will try to take political advantage out of this controversy and was waiting to see if the people’s trust in us will get eroded.”
Quizzed if the apology came in the wake of Sena being cornered by its ally BJP and Opposition parties, Thackeray said he does not get pressurised by anybody and he was only bowing down to women who have been hurt by the cartoon.
“Whatever I said today is from my heart and there was no pressure on me to apologise,” he added.
On Tuesday last, the office of the Sena mouthpiece in Navi Mumbai was stoned with a pro-Maratha social outfit, Sambhaji Brigade, claiming responsibility for the attack.
Thackeray said a Sena delegation led by him met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday and submitted a written demand for a special one-day session of the state legislature to discuss the demands of Marathas, including reservation in jobs and education.
“The chief minister said he was of the view that Marathas should be given reservation. But, he failed to specify when. If he does not do it, it will be like playing with their emotions. We want legislators from all political parties to put on record their stand over the issue,” he said.
Taking a dim view of Thackeray’s statements, Congress said if his apology was indeed heartfelt, he would have done so immediately after the cartoon was published.
“Uddhav Thackeray has understood the gravity of the situation very late. His apology now only shows his exasperation over the reaction of the Maratha community.
“Instead of apologising only to the womenfolk, he should have apologised to the entire community,” leader of opposition in assembly and Congress member Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil said.