While Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday trained his guns on the BJP for the split in the 25-year-old saffron alliance, the latter chose not to engage in mud-slinging, but instead use its trump card — PM Narendra Modi — in the October 15 Assembly elections.
Speaking for the first time after the split, Uddhav launched the Sena’s poll campaign, saying the BJP ‘betrayed’ them.
“Today, you have broken the alliance politically, but what you have damaged is the common thread of Hindutva. No Hindu will forgive you for this… Shiv Sainiks will show you who Maharashtra belongs to,” said the Sena president, while addressing his supporters at the Mahalaxmi Race Course.
Uddhav added that the BJP was making unreasonable demands and even asking for seats that the Sena had for many years. He did not criticise Modi, but taunted BJP over the Lok Sabha polls. “Maharashtra voted strongly for Modi, but what did the Sena get in return? Betrayal?” he said.
Read: Shiv Sena and BJP: How they married and divorced
Meanwhile, BJP president Amit Shah held a closed-door meeting with the party’s state leaders, to finalise their strategy, with the polls now being a five-cornered battle.
Realising that the Sena could garner sympathy, if it accused the BJP of betrayal, Shah and state leaders decided not to counter the former’s charges on public platforms. Sources said Shah and state leaders carefully followed Uddhav’s speech.
The BJP has planned to rely heavily on Modi, to tame the Sena, which after Uddhav’s speech on Saturday, has emerged the main challenger. Other than Congress and NCP, the BJP’s major thrust will be on eating into the Sena’s votes.
Sources said Shah has assured the state BJP unit at least 15 rallies of Modi across the state. The details will be charted out after the PM returns from the US on September 30.
Replying to allegations levelled by BJP leaders that the alliance broke due to his chief ministerial ambitions, Uddhav said: “Yes, I want to get a Shiv Sena chief minister if people want it to happen. What is wrong in that? Didn’t BJP want the same?”
Significantly, Uddhav avoided making any controversial statements and also did not make any mention of the speculations about a Sena-MNS tie-up. He did, however, invoke the issue of “Marathi pride”, but did not target the Gujarati community to corner the BJP.
Read: Here's what led to the BJP-Shiv Sena divorce