Under fire for item numbers performed at the anniversary celebrations of its youth wing, the Shiv Sena went into a damage control mode on Tuesday.
“The focus of the function was to inform everyone about the achievements of the youth wing and its activities,” said advocate Rahul Narvekar, spokesperson for the Yuva Sena. “Both, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray guided the youth. The dances to Marathi and Hindi songs were part of the entertainment program and there was nothing obscene about them.” Shiv Sena's youth wing, the Yuva Sena, marked its one-year anniversary with a function at the Shanmukhanand Hall on Monday. The event had dancers gyrating to saucy 'item numbers', amidst hoots and whistles from the crowd.
This was a departure from norm for a party that has always projected itself as a custodian of Indian values and has protested — often violently — against 'Western influences' like Valentine's Day and films with gay/lesbian themes.
Defending the Yuva Sena's choice of entertainment, a youth wing functionary close to Aditya Thackeray said that there was no reason to blame the Sena if people were fine watching such dances in films, at police shows, government events and even at programmes held for ministers.
Narvekar argued that these numbers had been approved by the Censor Board and would not have got a go-ahead from them if they were obscene.
But the Opposition was quick to rubbish these arguments. “If this is what one sees at the first annual function of the party, voters should be wary of the party's stand on issues,” said NCP leader and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.
Sadaf Aboli, secretary of the Mumbai unit of the National Students Union of India, said he wasn't surprised with the party's doublespeak. “Shiv Sena has always contradicted itself. On one hand, it would protest Valentine's Day saying it was against Hindu culture, while on the other, it would get Michael Jackson to perform in city,” Aboli said.
Narvekar, however, contended that the issue was being blown out of proportion only to distract people’s attention from major issues like corruption and price rise.