The heavy rains on Thursday couldn’t dampen the rally of the newly forged alliance of the Shiv Sena, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Republican Party of India (RPI) where the leaders launched a scathing attack on the government.
While their opponents — the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) — were hoping that the rains would result in a lower turnout, over 1.5 lakh supporters showed up at the venue.
Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, RPI chief Ramdas Athawale, BJP leaders Eknath Khadse and Vinod Tawde spoke about corruption, price rise and dalit atrocities.
“Till now we were protesting against the same issues, but separately. Now we will come together and fight to clean the system,” Uddhav said.
“It was the Janata Party not the Congress that gave Babasaheb Ambedkar [dalit leader] the opportunity to go to Parliament. And now when Athawale’s house at Delhi was vacated, the Congress threw out all his belonging and Babasaheb’s statue was kept on the road. This is the respect Congress has for dalits,” Tawde said.
However, Athawale seems to be testing the waters. “We were with the Congress for 20 years. We will stay with you for 10 years and see how it goes,” he said.
Athawale claimed the alliance was not for political purpose. “We have come together to fight issues. Discussion on civic polls have not yet started,” he said.
Despite the presence of prominent leaders, BJP leader Gopinath Munde did not turn up for the rally. While BJP leaders said he was ill, sources said Munde was upset with BJP chief Nitin Gadkari over the selection of the Pune city unit chief.
Meanwhile, Congress criticised the saffron speakers. “What alternatives are they going to offer to the people when their own house is in disarray?” asked party spokesman Sanjay Dutt.