‘Backstabbed by own’: Uddhav makes fiery, emotional appeals

Updated on Jun 25, 2022 04:55 AM IST

The Sena chief and his son Aaditya Thackeray met Shiv Sena’s district heads on Friday afternoon, hoping to shore up the party cadre, while Shinde continued to tighten his grip over legislators with the number of rebel MLAs rising to 38 – surpassing the 37 needed to legally defect.

CM Uddhav Thackeray becomes emotional while addressing the party through video conferencing from Matoshree, the family residence at Bandra, in Mumbai. (VIDEO GRAB)
CM Uddhav Thackeray becomes emotional while addressing the party through video conferencing from Matoshree, the family residence at Bandra, in Mumbai. (VIDEO GRAB)
By, Mumbai:

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray launched a broadside at Shiv Sena leaders who have rebelled against his leadership and could topple the government, making two speeches on Friday in which he described the defectors as “backstabbers”, lashed out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and invoked his father’s legacy to project himself as the party’s true leader.

Thackeray, desperately fighting to save his job as chief minister and hold on to his party, spoke twice -- once before an evening meeting with his alliance partner Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) boss Sharad Pawar, when he made a more emotional appeal; and then late in the night, when he was perceptively combative, focussing a significant portion of his attack on what he described as betrayal by his one-time lieutenant Eknath Shinde and the other MLAs.

“You can take the fruits and flowers of a tree. But till the roots are strong, I need not worry. The roots can never be uprooted. Every season, new leaves and fruits blossom. Leaves blighted by disease need to be removed and thrown. Consider the present situation in this context,” Thackeray said during the first virtual address, which was to the party rank and file.

The Sena chief and his son Aaditya Thackeray met Shiv Sena’s district heads on Friday afternoon, hoping to shore up the party cadre, while Shinde continued to tighten his grip over legislators with the number of rebel MLAs rising to 38 – surpassing the 37 needed to legally defect. Aaditya attended the meeting in person and was greeted by a crowd of party workers who criticised the rebels, raised slogans and even wept.

“I have said it earlier also that I don’t have anything to do with power. The people who used to say that they would rather die than leave Shiv Sena have fled today,” the Thackeray chief said, his emotions showing in his appeal as he reiterated that he will step down not just as CM but from the party if the Sena cadre told him so openly.

“I am not blackmailing you. If you feel I am incompetent to run the party, I am ready to quit (as Sena president). Chief minister’s post is inconsequential for me.”

He spoke particularly about Shinde. “Eknath Shinde’s son is an MP from Shiv Sena, I did everything for him. The department I had was given to Shinde,” he said.

“He was made a minister twice after Balasaheb Thackeray’s death (in 2012). Twice we were in power (after 2012). He was given departments which are normally kept by the chief minister himself,” he said, challenging Shinde to drop stay away from his family’s legacy. “You should keep Thackeray name out of your politics and see if you can survive. One can never detach the Thackerays from the Shiv Sena,” he added.

In the second speech, too, he spoke further on the rebel leader. “I called Shinde and told him I have given you responsibilities – he said the NCP was troubling the local cadre. I argued, asking how can we go with the BJP which backstabbed us? They did not fulfil their promises”.

He accused the BJP of trying to eliminate the Shiv Sena. “They (BJP) want to own Hindutva. We laid the foundation of Hindutva under Balasaheb and they are reaping the benefits,” he said.

“I challenge the BJP: Try and isolate me, give the MLAs whatever they want and take them,” he said, adding that this episode will help “remove the rust from the sword that is Sena”.

“I won’t stop till Sena wins again. Whoever wants to go, leave. But leave openly. I will strengthen party again, myself,” he said.

He cautioned the MLAs that if they will be disqualified if they don’t have the numbers and even if they make it, the government won’t last.

In the first speech, too, Thackeray took aim at the BJP as he addressed party workers. “What kind of Shiv Sainiks are you? Don’t you feel agitated by the BJP’s use and throw policy and when baseless charges are made against Matoshree (the private residence of the Thackerays in suburban Bandra),” he said.

Thackeray also accused the party’s opponents of having taken advantage of his illness. “After the pandemic surge reduced, around Diwali (last year) my spinal cord was compressed. I could not stand or walk. An MRI revealed I needed urgent surgery.

“As I was recovering, I could not move from my neck to the toe for which I underwent another surgery. The opponents thought this was the right time to strike since they felt I may never stand on my feet again,” he said.

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