In his second day of campaigning, Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray launched a multi-pronged attack on ally-turned-rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over transparency, demonetisation, slow pace of infrastructure projects as well as the party’s leaning towards carving out a separate Vidarbha state.
Addressing two public gatherings--one at the Sena’s stronghold of Bhandup and other at Mulund, the constituency of BJP parliamentarian Kirit Somaiya who is one of the Sena’s biggest critics--Thackeray slammed the BJP’s move to get all its candidates to visit the Hutatma Chowk memorial and take a pledge of transparency as a gimmick.
“We can also go to the memorial and pledge that we have anyway taken Mumbai’s responsibility but we vow to also ensure that Maharashtra remains undivided. Do they [the BJP] have the guts to make such a pledge?” Thackeray said.
The Sena chief also continued the tug of war on transparency between the two parties, saying the Union government has already certified that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is the country’s most transparent civic body, and reiterated that cabinet meetings should be more transparent too with ministers of state, the opposition leader, the press and a Lokayukta in attendance.
“Let everyone eat chikki then,” Thackeray said in a veiled reference to the graft allegations against BJP minister Pankaja Munde for a contract to buy chikkis. “Although you have been blind to the BMC’s transparency, your superiors in Delhi have seen it, and we don’t have any say or influence in drafting the report. If we did have any sway, the alliance wouldn’t have broken today,” he added.
He said the BJP should also be transparent about why certain projects get stuck or take long to complete, and that while the BMC works efficiently, the long time taken for the Centre and state clearances delay projects such as the Mumbai coastal freeway.
On Sunday,Thackeray mocked the BJP’s campaign tagline of ‘Mi khara Mumbaiite,’ which takes a dig at an old Sena election campaign titled ‘Mi Mumbaikar,’ saying, “Those who have no relation to Mumbai have to justify and keep harping on how they are Mumbaiites. Shiv Sena doesn’t need to do that. We have a long and deep relation with Mumbai.”
The Sena chief also slammed any criticism of his own party’s campaign tag line of ‘#Didyouknow,’ hoardings of which have cropped up all over the city. The party has been using the tagline to give tidbits of information of the work that the BMC has done in Mumbai over the last two decades, and its detractors have defined it as the party’s attempt to move away from its core voter base of Maharashtrians and reach out to a more cosmopolitan population.
“No one said anything about the work we have projected in our campaign. They only want to attack us on why the Shiv Sena is not campaigning in Marathi. I would like to tell them, did you know, the Marathi manoos can also speak English?” Thackeray said.
Jolted by defections and internal rebellion over candidature allotments, the Sena chief also sought to quell any unrest within the party saying when Sainiks go to vote, they should not see the candidate and keep aside personal likes and dislikes.
“Your candidate is Shiv Sena. I have taken personal responsibility of all candidates. I am appealing to all my Sainiks to not ensure the victory of a candidate, but ensure the victory of the bow and arrow. I have nothing to give to anyone, except faith. Those who wanted something more have left, while those who have trust in my faith have stayed back,” Thackeray said.