Desperate to stay politically relevant, the Shiv Sena on Friday targeted Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan.
While the Sena was upset with Ambani over his “Mumbai for all” statement, it targeted Khan for his stand on allowing Pakistani players to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Khan is co-owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders team.
Last year, the Sena performed badly in both the Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections.
The Sena won 11 seats in the Lok Sabha elections held in April 2009 against 12 in 2004.
It suffered its worst defeat in 20 years during the Assembly elections in October 2009, winning only 45 of the 169 seats it contested. In 2004, it won 62 of the 163 seats it contested.
The Sena lost a lot of ground to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), floated by Raj Thackeray, which has an aggressive pro-Maharashtrian agenda.
With the civic elections coming up in February 2012, this erosion of support is not good news for the Sena. Retaining power in the civic bodies of Mumbai and Thane is now the Sena’s top priority.
On Friday, Sena activists tore down posters of Khan’s forthcoming film My Name is Khan at the theatre at Eternity mall in Thane. They also warned the theatre owner against screening the film.
“If Khan wants Pakistani cricketers in the IPL, he should sell off his bungalow in Bandra and go to Karachi or Islamabad to play with them,” Sena spokesman and party MP Sanjay Raut said. “If he includes Pakistanis in his team, he should understand the consequences.”
Minister of State for Home Ramesh Bagwe said: “Those who violate the law will not be spared.” He said Khan had the right to select anyone he wants for his team. “If Khan wants police protection, we will give it. Players from Pakistan will be given full security,” Bagwe said.
In a statement in Saamna, the party mouthpiece, Sena chief Bal Thackeray took aim at Ambani, saying that if Reliance belonged to Ambani, Mumbai belonged to Maharashtrians.
The front-page article said: “The Marathi manoos has as much right over Mumbai as Ambani has over Reliance. The only difference is that your interest is for business while Mumbai is the pride of the people. You are welcome to carry on business, but don’t meddle with Mumbai and the Marathi manoos,” Thackeray said.
He added: “When ‘Pandit Mukesh Ambani’ says Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi belong to all Indians, why has he left out Ahmedabad, Jamnagar and Rajkot?”
Thackeray praised Reliance founder — the late Dhirubhai Ambani, Mukesh’s father — saying he was a friend and had done much for Mumbai. Thackeray regretted “Ambani was deviating from his father’s path”.
Ambani had recently said the controversy over making Marathi mandatory for taxi drivers was “unfortunate” and that Mumbai belonged to all Indians. “We are all Indians first... That is the reality,” Ambani had said at the London School of Economics.
Last November, Thackeray had criticised cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, who had also said Mumbai belonged to all Indians. Thackeray had said: “Tendulkar should stick to cricket. The right to decide who comes to Mumbai is ours, not his.”