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Palghar bypoll fight turns ugly as Uddhav Thackeray, Devendra Fadnavis trade charges

On Friday, Uddhav Thackeray had released an audio clip, in which Devendra Fadnavis is heard exhorting BJP workers to “use all means” to win the Palghar bypoll.

india Updated: May 26, 2018 23:52 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Palghar bypoll,Uddhav Thackeray,Shiv Sena
The latest irritant in the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is an audio clip, in which CM Devendra Fadnavis (left) is heard exhorting party workers to ‘use all means’ to win the bypoll. (Vidya Subramanian/HT File)

The tussle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena over the Lok Sabha bypoll in Palghar has now turned into a full-blown battle between the ruling parties with Uddhav Thackeray and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis trading charges.

A day after the Sena chief released an audio clip, in which Fadnavis is heard exhorting BJP workers to “use all means” to win the bypoll, the chief minister released a longer version of the same clip on Saturday and alleged the Sena had edited parts of the clip and highlighted only those.

Fadnavis, while admitting that it was his voice on the audio clip released by Sena, said they had “twisted” and played out a “selectively edited” audio clip.

The Sena released the clip at a public rally in Palghar on Friday evening and demanded that the Election Commission (EC) should act against the chief minister.

Speaking to BJP workers in Vasai, Fadnavis released the entire 14-minute audio clip. “The Shiv Sena can see it is going to be defeated and thus, it has stooped to such levels,” said the chief minister.

“The Sena twisted my audio clip and presented it before the people to misguide them. The entire audio clip is 14 minutes long. I will myself submit this audio clip to the Election Commission. My last sentence in the clip, which was, that we are in power, but we will never misuse it, was conveniently left out… Had they played it, their claims would have fallen flat. Listen to the whole clip and if there is anything wrong that I have said, I am ready to face action,” Fadnavis said.

The CM also hit out at Thackeray, who had dared the BJP leadership to battle it out without involving the law-and-order machinery. “Only after I became the CM, I had to take security. It is for the CM, not for Devendra Fadnavis. I used to roam around without guards. You call me to provide security and guards for your leaders. If you dislike it, then why do you ask for security cover,” Fadnavis said.

Hours after the chief minister’s clarification, Sena demanded his resignation. Sena spokespersons Anil Parab and Neelam Gorhe addressed the media in Palghar and said the EC should take action on the complaint, before the election is held on May 28. “The CM has accepted it is his voice, and if it is proved that the party [Sena] doctored the clip, we are ready to face any punishment. However, if the clip is found genuine and if it is not edited, as the CM claims, will he resign over the issue today evening?” Parab said.

The move by the Sena to corner the BJP, days before the district goes to polls, seems to have backfired after Fadnavis’ clarification. However, the Sena leaders said it would not impact the party adversely. “Whatever clip was available with Uddhavji, he played it out and put it in front of the people. We have complained to the EC, now let the authority make a decision,” said Manisha Kayande, Sena spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the opposition demanded action against Fadnavis for violation of the model code of conduct and resorting to the unethical practices.

Congress’ state unit chief Ashok Chavan demanded the CM’s resignation for encouraging practices which are against the democratic process of polls. “By calling it part of election strategy, the CM has admitted to having asked his party workers to resort to all means to win the elections,” said Chavan. “This is very serious and action needs to be taken against him. We expect an immediate intervention by the Election Commission of India (ECI).”

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), too, has demanded action against Fadnavis. “The clip released by the Shiv Sena has the CM using objectionable language. It is criminal intimidation, for which the CM should be booked under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The ECI should take action against the CM by getting a forensic lab to scrutinise the veracity of the tape,” said NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik.

(With inputs from Surendra P Gangan)

First Published: May 26, 2018 23:51 IST