Khed (Maharashtra): Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Sunday launched a scathing attack on Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray accusing him of attempting to destroy the careers of leaders of his own party.
Tearing into Thackeray, he asked whether the former chief minister was with the "tukde, tukde gang" and Rahul Gandhi who "insulted" India abroad or is he with the patriotic prime minister Narendra Modi.
Addressing a rally at Khed in Ratnagiri district from the same ground where Thackeray had addressed a gathering a fortnight ago, Shinde said he was the true inheritor of the legacy of Bal Thackeray, founder of Shiv Sena.
The Election Commission recently recognised the faction led by Shinde as the Shiv Sena and allotted it the "bow and arrow" poll symbol.
Shinde, whose coup against Uddhav Thackeray had split the Shiv Sena last year and toppled the MVA government led by Thackeray, said he had never seen a leader who conspires with other political parties to destroy the political careers of his own people.
He took the names of Raj Thackeray (MNS chief) and Narayan Rane among others, who had quit Shiv Sena a long time ago.
"How will the party grow in such a situation? I am not 'gaddar' (traitor) but 'khuddar' (a self-respecting person). Uddhav Thackeray doesn't have the right to call us traitors," he said.
Senior leaders like Gajanan Kirtikar, Ramdas Kadam and others had worked shoulder to shoulder with Balasaheb to strengthen the Shiv Sena, but you call them traitors. "There is a limit to exercise restrain,' Shinde added.
"I am not a chief minister who gives orders sitting at home but I believe in going to the field during the time of crisis. I was infected with the coronavirus twice. I have always worked on the field, but you call me a traitor,' he said targetting Thackeray.
Thackeray was accused by the Opposition BJP and the Shinde camp of running the government from the comfort of his private residence in Mumbai during his tenure as the chief minister when the pandemic had wreaked havoc.
"Uddhav Thackeray may be the heir to Balasaheb Thackeray's wealth but not to the ideology which he has mortgaged to the Congress and the NCP to become the chief minister (in November 2019). I am the inheritor of Balasaheb's ideology and legacy," Shinde said.
He said Uddhav Thackeray should know that Balasaheb was much bigger than just being his (Uddhav's) father and he should stop harping on the same to gain "sympathy".
"I want to know whether Uddhav Thackeray is with the 'tukde tukde gang' or with those who unite the country. Is he (Uddhav) with Rahul Gandhi who has insulted our country abroad or is he with Prime Minister Narendra Modi known for working 18 hours a day?" Shinde asked.
He also targeted the Congress party and said Shiv Sainiks need to choose between Rahul Gandhi "who can't win state elections and cannot take responsibility for his party and the nationalist and patriotic prime minister Narendra Modi".
"Rahul Gandhi was smiling during his Kashmir visit. It would not have been possible without the removal of Article 370. It was done by PM Modi and union home minister Amit Shah.
"Late Balasaheb Thackeray was also of the same opinion to remove this article. It was Amit Shah who by abrogating article 370 fulfilled the long-standing demand of Balasaheb Thackeray," he added.
Shinde said the Congress has "looted" the country for 70 years but the son and the grandson of Balasaheb Thackeray, a reference to Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray, are asking votes for such a party, which is "unfortunate".
Continuing his diatribe, Shinde said Thackeray's greed for power and to become the chief minister became supreme and he lost contact with his own party workers.
"I had never dreamed of becoming the chief minister. When I rebelled, I had no idea that I would become chief minister. But it was due to the support and assistance of PM Modi, Amit Shah, and state deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis that I was given this post," he said.
He claimed that Bal Thackeray used to say in his public rallies that if Shiv Sena joins hands with Congress, he would prefer dissolving the party, but Uddhav joined hands with Congress in 2019 to form a government.
"Uddhav Thackeray had stated that then union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar had failed on all the fronts. He had also criticised former chief minister Ashok Chavan for his alleged involvement in the Adarsh building flat allotment scam. But when it comes to government formation, Thackeray selectively forgot it and joined hands with them," he said.
Taking a dig at Thackeray over his March 5 rally, Shinde said, "He is going to repeat his circus in the entire state. The same taunts and the same allegations would be repeated".
"I am well aware of his deeds and there is a limit to the tolerance of a man on how much criticism he can take. I expect they would not make me take that step," he added.