The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government may be battling an aggressive Opposition in Parliament’s monsoon session, but it is facing an even more damaging critic in Maharashtra — its ally the Shiv Sena.
The party was targeted by Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray in an interview to MP and executive editor Sanjay Raut in the party mouthpiece Saamana on Thursday. The Sena chief said nothing has changed on the ground, and the Narendra Modi-led government will have to increase the pace at which it is working to meet its ‘acche din’ promise.
He accused BJP president Amit Shah of having double standards when it came to government formation, saying Modi’s second-in-command blamed the Sena for playing coalition politics in Maharashtra, but settled with Mufti Saeed’s party, even though it has a different ideology, which has led to the raising of Pakistan’s flags in Kashmir yet again.
Thackeray, in the first of a three-part interview, also admitted feeling isolated in the government, comparing the present situation to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as prime minister, when the Sena’s opinion as a partner in the NDA mattered.
Commenting on the current performance of the government, Thackeray said, “It will take 50 years to clean the mess created by the previous government. But a lot needs to be done in the next five years. Modi has promised people ‘acche din’ [good days] and cannot trick people on that.”
Elaborating on his claim, Thackeray said newspaper headlines remain the same even though the government has changed. “We are still reading the same headlines of farmer suicides, unemployment and crime against women. Show me one thing that is new. It is only the politicians who feel things are changing. People are not feeling any change,” he said.
Thackeray described the current relationship between the Sena and the BJP using the Hindi phrase ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ (what do we mean to you), “The Sena is part of the government, but the power is not with us. When Atalji was running the government, he would take the opinion of every player in the NDA, including the Sena and the Akali Dal. What is happening now?” he said. Thackeray said he appreciates the recent step to revive NDA meetings, but felt things need to change, and the BJP needs to be clear on what the Sena means to them.
It also quoted alliances forged by BJP with the Congress in Gondia, with Chandrababu Naidu and Ram Vilas Paswan, saying these are the people ‘who come and go’.
“If the government is going to run like this with allies who come and go, then the Sena is not interested in such politics… The Sena has never forged an alliance for power. Whether good days or bad, elections or no elections, for the Sena, once a friend, always a friend,” he said.
While commenting on Kashmir, Thackeray took indirect potshots at Shah and his alliance politics. “I don’t have any personal grudge against anyone, but this is surprising. While they have conveniently forgotten their previous opinion and political stand on Mufti Saeed, the same BJP president (Amit Shah) who criticised us over the politics of coalition, goes ahead and joins hands with those who are openly supporting the Azad Kashmir cause. This is surprising,” he said.