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Day after Sharad Pawar meet, Raj Thackeray calls for ‘Modi-mukt Bharat’

mumbai Updated: Mar 19, 2018 09:18 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Mumbai news,Sharad Pawar

Raj Thackeray addresses a rally at Shivaji Park.(Kunal Patil/HT Photo)

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray called for a “Modi-mukt Bharat” (Modi-free India) during his Gudi Padwa rally on Sunday, and appealed to like-minded parties to forge a united opposition against BJP for the 2019 election. “It is high time we achieved our third independence in 2019,” he told a packed Shivaji Park. He referred to August 15, 1947 as the country’s first independence and the lifting of the Emergency on March 21, 1977 as its second.

Thackeray’s slogan comes a day after his meeting with Nationalist Congress Party chief and BJP opponent Sharad Pawar. The latter also met Congress president Rahul Gandhi last week, a few days ahead of the Congress Plenary. Both meetings were termed as “courtesy visits”, but the subsequent call-for-action speeches by both Gandhi and Thackeray are seen as a consequence of those parleys.

In his speech, Thackeray came down heavily on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as the BJP government in Maharashtra led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. “We believed Modi in 2014 for a Congress-mukt Bharat, but now we need Modi-mukt Bharat,” Thackeray said.

He said the Modi government had failed on all counts and that it is dividing Indians in the name of religion. He then added that, in the near future, there would be attempts to start communal riots on the issue of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya, in order to win elections. He said, “Should the temple be built? Yes. But If Ram Mandir is going to be an election issue, then let’s wait for a year. I appeal to both Muslims and Hindus to beware of BJP’s election plans.”

Thackeray also targeted the prime minister on the Rs12,600 crore Punjab National Bank fraud involving diamond merchants Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, and also for his demonetisation announcement in November 2016. “When a new government is appointed and if it initiates an inquiry, demonetisation will turn out to be the biggest scam in independent India. How does Nirav Modi leave the country when a CBI case is going on? How does he meet the PM in Davos,” questioned Thackeray.

Though the Thackeray offensive against the BJP came a day after his meeting with Pawar, he did not mention the NCP or his erstwhile part Shiv Sena during the hour-long speech. Politically, the Congress may be wary of an alliance with MNS as the latter has a strong anti-North Indian bias, while the former has a significant presence in the community. Thackeray played his traditional ‘sons of the soil’ card in an attempt to woo back the Marathi voter. “The Fadnavis government does not have Maharashtra or Marathi manoos on its agenda,” he said. “The CM has been occupying the chair not on merit, but for other reasons. It is time for the Marathi manoos to wake up and become aware of reality.”

First Published: Mar 19, 2018 00:42 IST