Uddhav Thackeray promises poll sops, raises Ram temple, Article 370
Lower electricity tariffs, cheap meals and Rs 1 health examinations were part of a bouquet of sops promised by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at a rally in Mumbai on Tuesday with roughly two weeks left for assembly elections in Maharashtra.
Speaking at the Sena’s annual Dussehra rally in Dadar, Thackeray demanded a special law for construction of the Ram temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya and praised Union home minister Amit Shah for the central government decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status but also made a veiled jibe.
“On one hand you build a Ram Temple and on the other hand break promises given, this will not sit right even with Lord Ram,” he said in what may have an indirect reference to alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for not agreeing to an equal share of assembly seats. The Sena is fighting on 124 seats while the BJP and smaller allies are contesting on 164 seats. Thackeray also warned that the Sena should not be “backstabbed”.
In his 34-minute speech at Shivaji Park, Thackeray promised a complete farm loan waiver for the state’s farmers. “I do not like the work “maafi” [forgiven], I will give a complete loan “mukti” [freedom] to the farmers after coming back to power,” he said.
He also pledged to reduce electricity charges up to 300 units by 30%, provide health check-ups at Re 1, make full meals available for Rs 10 and give free bus services to rural students. “We will have to do these things,” the Sena chief declared.
Thackeray said though Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the countr to wait for a court verdict on the Ayodhya case, there should be a special legislation to build the temple. “We are not leaving this issue. We don’t want Ram Mandir just for politics. This is a demand of the whole country. Our motto is not to back out on our promises. We stick to our promises,” he said.
Justifying his decision to ally with the BJP, he said it was done for the sake of “Hindutva” and refuted allegations that the Sena “bent” before the BJP.
“The Shiv Sena never bows down in front of anyone and no one can make it too. We did an alliance for Hindutva. Had we not given support with the BJP then should we have backed Congress which is criticising the scrapping of Article 370, a party that wanted to scrap sedition,” he said.
This came a day after he gave an interview to his party’s mouthpiece, Saamana, where he said he made a compromise in forging the alliance with the BJP to remain in power and to serve the people of the state. Thackeray also asked Shah to bring in the Uniform Civil Code and “drive out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.”
Thackeray ended his speech by asking Sena workers if they were with him in the decision to ally with the BJP. “We are going forward. Is my decision acceptable to you? I ask you to work with modesty for the alliance and we will hoist the saffron flag” he said.