The conflict within the saffron parties over North Indians’ right to live and work in Maharashtra intensified on Monday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) sprang to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s defence, while the Shiv Sena continued its fusillade at the RSS.
The Shiv Sena had on Sunday criticised Bhagwat for saying in Guwahati that “Mumbai is for all Indians. Any Indian can go anywhere in India to earn a livelihood”.
Joining the battle on Monday, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said, “Persons who express concern for North Indians should also contemplate why Hindi-speaking people were being killed or driven out of Assam”.
Thackeray also said it was not the RSS but the Shiv Sena, which protected Hindi-speaking people during the communal riots in 1992.
He took a swipe at RSS spoke-sman Ram Madhav too for saying the Sangh had asked its volunteers to prevent anti-North Indian and anti-Hindi feelings from spreading in Maharashtra.
“Will Madhav stand guard holding his baton for the North Indians in Mumbai?” the Sena leader asked.
In New Delhi, BJP president Nitin Gadkari made it clear that his party would not back the Shiv Sena on the migrants’ issue just because the two parties are old allies.
“All citizens of India may be attached to a particular language, region or religion. These identities have never diluted their Indianness. The BJP will never accept the philosophy that there is a conflict between them,” he told mediapersons.
Gadkari read out Article 19(1) of the Constitution that says all Indians have the right to reside and settle in any part of the country.
He said the BJP would not accept anything that threatened national unity and integration.
Senior BJP leader M.M. Joshi came down harder on the Sena. “It is unacceptable that a party should create a divide for the sake of political gain. This is the worst example of vote bank politics,” he said.