The Shiv Sena hit out at Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday in the wake of the ink attack controversy, saying the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader has failed to understand the state.
“The CM says that our state has got a bad name due to our agitation against (former Pakistan foreign minister) Khurshid Kasuri. This shows that he has failed to understand Maharashtra. His statement and his support (to Kasuri) has actually brought us a bad name,” party MP Sanjay Raut told reporters in Mumbai, signalling a wide rift between the two political allies.
The Shiv Sena has also decided to go it alone in the forthcoming Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation election and not have any tie-up with the BJP with which it shares power in the state and Centre.
The fresh flashpoint came after CM Fadnavis condemned the Sena’s move to disrupt the launch of Kasuri’s ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy, saying he “can’t let the state turn into a banana republic”.
Alleged Sena supporters threw black ink on the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni, a member of a city-based think-tank who was the co-organiser of the launch event, for not bowing to the party’s diktat calling for cancellation of the event over its Pakistan connection.
Six party activists were arrested late on Monday in connection with the incident in the latest in a string of attacks on free speech in the country.
“We may not agree with the views of somebody, but when a foreign dignitary or a diplomat arrives on a valid visa and holds a programme, which is not illegal, it’s the duty of a state to provide protection,” Fadnavis said in his response to the controversy.
Several media organisations reported that Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray met the six activists on Tuesday, and gave them a pat on the back. “Party sources said the Sena chief felicitated the workers, who were released on bail this morning,” NDTV reported.
Justifying the protests by his party against Kasuri’s book launch, Raut said the “nationalistic ideals” of the Sena made it oppose the event.
“The chief minister has insulted the martyrs such as Tukaram Omble who died while fighting Pakistani terrorists (during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks) by asking policemen to provide security to a Pakistani. His (Fadnavis’) statements have insulted Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Maharashtra,” he said.
Raut said if fighting against Pakistan is a crime, the Sena is ready to take responsibility for committing the crime.
Despite Sena’s protests, the book launch event was organised by ORF at Nehru Centre in Worli in central Mumbai, and it took place as scheduled on Monday evening amid tight security.
However, senior Sena leader and minister Ramdas Kadam dismissed growing speculation that the uneasy alliance would break in Maharashtra.
“We are unhappy with the BJP...But this does not mean the alliance will break down. Any decision on this will be taken by our party president,” Kadam told the media.
Reacting to it, BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said after all speculation on the fate of the state government had been put at rest after Kadam’s statement.
The Sena has been the BJP’s oldest ally. But ties between them turned sour after the BJP fought the Maharashtra assembly election on its own in October 2014 and won more seats than the Sena - and formed its first-ever government in the state. The Sena later joined the government.