“Yes. There is a connection between our defeat in the Assembly elections and our aggressive stance [now],” Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray told HT on Wednesday.
The heightened aggression is undeniable. The party has, over the last few days, issued ‘warnings’ to everyone from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to superstar Shah Rukh Khan, industrialist Mukesh Ambani and ace India cricketer Sachin Tendulkar over everything from the Mumbai for Marathis issue to Pakistani and Australian players being part of the Indian Premier League.
Is this aggression a move to regain political ground lost to cousin Raj Thackeray’s rival Maharashtra Navnirman Sena?
Uddhav sidesteps the question.
“We lost the elections and those who were trying to separate Mumbai from Maharashtra and make it a union territory became active again,” he said. “They think the Sena is weak and it is the right time to strike. First there is talk to separate Vidarbha, now there is talk on Mumbai for All. This is the conspiracy of all those who hate Maharashtra. We won’t let it happen and that’s why we are aggressive.”
Would the aggression extend to Gandhi’s February 5 visit to Mumbai and the release of Khan’s My Name Is Khan?
“I am yet to decide on Gandhi’s tour [on February 5],” said Uddhav. “As far as Shah Rukh is concerned, he will have to apologise if he wants his movies to be released.”
So who is behind the conspiracy to separate Mumbai from Maharashtra?
“All those who have been speaking for the past two days,” said Uddhav. “They first gave more power to the MMRDA [the metropolitan development authority] to encroach on the powers of the BMC [Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation]. Now, an officer is being appointed by the Centre to look into Mumbai’s affairs. What does all this indicate?”
And what of the widening rift between the Shiv Sena and its electoral ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party?
“We don’t care,” Uddhav said. “We have been vocal on the issue of the Marathi manoos for 40 years. During the 1992-93 riots, it was the Shiv Sena who saved Mumbai and we never differentiated between Marathi and non-Marathis then. We saved them as Hindus.”
Asked if he justified his party’s threat to Shah Rukh Khan, Uddhav said everyone should “stick to his profession and not dabble in other issues”. “Why do you want to play cricket with a country that sends terrorists to attack us?” he added.
Asked how long the Sena protests would continue, Uddhav said it was “enough now”. “Everyone should focus on their respective professions,” he added. “This is all being done [by the Congress] to win the Bihar polls.”