MUMBAI: In an apparent indication of a possible post-poll alliance with the Shiv Sena, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said he would not “utter a word” against the former BJP ally as a mark of respect for its late supremo Bal Thackeray.
Modi, instead, launched a scathing attack on NCP chief Sharad Pawar in a poll rally in the party’s stronghold of Tasgaon in Sangli district of poll-bound Maharashtra. “Political pundits are saying that Modi is not criticising Shiv Sena in his speeches. This is the first election (in Maharashtra) in the absence of late Balasaheb, for whom I have great respect. I have decided not to utter a single word against the Shiv Sena. This is my tribute to Balasaheb. There are some things that are above politics,” he said.
His remarks came hours after Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray attacked the BJP, accusing it of “backstabbing” Bal Thackeray by snapping ties with his party over seat sharing.
Addressing three rallies on the second day of his Maharashtra campaign, Modi urged voters to banish the NCP and Congress from the State, alleging that Pawar lacked the qualities of Maratha icon Chhatrapati Shivaji as he had failed to address the water woes of the State as Chief Minister and Union Agriculture Minister. “I am amazed. Pawar was the Union Agriculture Minister. But in his Maharashtra, around 3,700 farmers commit suicide every year. Had you (Pawar) implemented Shivaji’s water management techniques, farmers of Maharashtra would not have died,” Modi said.
“You speak of Chhatrapati Shivaji, but it was the Vajpayee government which named the Mumbai airport after Shivaji. You were the Chief Minister but did not think of it. Even Victoria Terminus was named Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus by the Vajpayee government,” he added.
The Prime Minister also attacked Pawar for his comments about Shivaji “plundering” the treasury of Surat. “Pawar’s statement has hurt me deeply. You have no knowledge of history. Gujarat was part of Maharashtra prior to its formation in 1960. We have considered Maharashtra as a big brother. Stop challenging our ‘Shiv bhakti’,” he said. The NCP chief had recently attacked the BJP saying that those who had termed Shivaji a ‘looter’ were invoking the warrior king to seek votes.
Asking the people to give a clear majority to the BJP and teach the NCP and Congress a lesson, Modi said, “These are the people who looted houses from Kargil widows, they looted the happiness of the poor, they destroyed the hopes and aspirations of the people of Maharashtra. Be it Congress or NCP, they are all corrupt.” He addressed rallies in Tasgaon, Kolhapur (considered NCP strongholds) and Gondia in the Vidarbha region.