Portrait politics: Sena factions vie for Bal Thackeray legacy on his birth anniversary

NewsDrum Desk
23 Jan 2023

Mumbai, Jan 23 (PTI) Rival factions of the Shiv Sena on Monday vied with each other to lay claim to the political legacy of party founder Bal Thackeray on his 97th birth anniversary as they held separate events in Mumbai to pay tributes to him and targeted each other.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, whose revolt in June last year, split the party, said Bal Thackeray was the only Indian leader that Pakistan feared.

Speaking at the inauguration of an oil portrait of Bal Thackeray in the central hall of Maharashtra legislative building in south Mumbai on the occasion of his birth anniversary, he said the Sena founder never compromised on his values to gain power.

Former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, the son of Bal Thackeray, and his family members did not attend the event.

Shinde said, “Balasaheb Thackeray was the only leader in the country that Pakistan feared. He was an ardent supporter of Hindutva, but never hated the Muslim community. His only opposition was to those who used to praise Pakistan, while living in India." Without taking the name of his predecessor and now political rival Uddhav Thackeray, who heads a faction of the Shiv Sena, the CM said, “He (Bal Thackeray) never compromised on his values to gain power. He functioned as a remote control of the government (in 1995-99 when Sena-BJP combine was in power) but never used it for personal gains.” Uddhav Thackeray, who was ousted from power in June last year after a section of MLAs revolted against his leadership, has consistently accused the rival Shinde-led camp (Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena) of working only to protect their personal interests.

“One definition of democracy is (rule) 'by the people, for the people'. Balasaheb was the only leader who practiced it. Earlier, there were a handful of political families who used to control state politics. This picture was changed by Balasaheb,” said the chief minister.

Reacting to the unveiling of the Sena founder's portrait in the Vidhan Bhavan complex, Uddhav Thackeray said, “Your act of installing an oil painting of Balasaheb may be good, but your intention is bad.” Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya, a former minister and the MLA from Worli in Mumbai, and other family members stayed away from the official event. The father-son duo, along with other prominent members of the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), offered floral tributes to the late politician's statue located a few kilometres away from the Vidhan Bhavan building in south Mumbai.

They later attended a programme at Shanmukhananda Hall in Sion organised on the occasion of Bal Thackeray's birth anniversary.

However, Uddhav Thackeray's estranged cousin Raj Thackeray, who heads a breakaway faction of the Shiv Sena, MNS, was present at the event in Vidhan Bhavan.

Speaking separately, former chief minister Thackeray also targeted ex-ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying it is trying to take the country towards dictatorship through the "sham" Hindutva.

Without naming the BJP, he said they want to have an "iron grip" on India and referred to China.

Addressing Shiv Sena workers, the former CM said the BJP knows it cannot get votes without invoking the Thackeray senior.

He dared the BJP to seek votes only in the name of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and face polls.

"The country is heading towards dictatorship. Their Hindutva is a sham…create a wall of caution under the guise of Hindutva and harden the grip on the country so that no one can dare say anything," the former CM said.

The Shiv Sena (UBT) leader said he had gone to China ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he met with an interpreter.

"I told him why he didn't go to Beijing to earn money as he was speaking good English. He replied that 'he wanted to be alive'. When questioned further, he told us that whosoever speaks against the (Chinese) government in Beijing, disappears in two days. They want to have a similar iron grip here (in India)," he said in a veiled reference to BJP.

Uddhav Thackeray said the BJP views Mumbai as the proverbial hen which lays golden eggs and wants to slaughter it.

"Even the BJP has accepted that it cannot get votes without invoking Bal Thackeray," the Shiv Sena (UBT) leader said.

On PM Modi last week inaugurating and laying foundation stones for infrastructure projects in Mumbai where civic polls are due, Uddhav Thackeray said this could happen only because the Shiv Sena did the groundwork for three years. PTI ND PR NSK RSY RSY

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