Uddhav, Shinde spar on Sena Foundation Day setting stage for Maharashtra Assembly polls

Speaking at Sena Foundation Day event, Uddhav asserted that he will never go with those who tried to "finish off" his party, ending speculation about reconciling with BJP ahead of the assembly polls.
Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde speak during their respective camps' celebration of the Sena Foundation Day in Mumbai on Wednesday.
Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray and Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde speak during their respective camps' celebration of the Sena Foundation Day in Mumbai on Wednesday.Photo | PTI

Fresh from their bruising battle in the Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra, rival Shiv Sena factions on Wednesday used the party's Foundation Day for show of strength ahead of the assembly polls as they sought to cement their position in the state politics two years after a split.

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, who heads the Shiv Sena, and his rival and Shiv Sena (UBT) president Uddhav Thackeray addressed separate events organised in Mumbai to mark the 58th Foundation Day of the party founded by the late Bal Thackeray, which started with the 'son of the soil' agenda and later embraced Hindutva, bringing it close to the BJP.

Speaking at his party's event in Shanmukhananda Hall, Thackeray said he will never go with those who tried to "finish off" his party, putting paid to speculation about a possible reconciliation with the BJP post the Lok Sabha polls. Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde claimed that the Uddhav-led Sena faction won Lok Sabha seats in the state because of the Congress' vote bank and likened its victory to a "swelling that will go away in due course."

Speaking at an event here to mark the 58th Foundation Day of the Shiv Sena founded by his late father Bal Thackeray, Uddhav claimed that the new Narendra Modi government at the Centre, which was sworn in on June 9, will collapse and will be replaced by an INDIA bloc dispensation.

The BJP was trying to hide its failure by spreading rumour that the Shiv Sena (UBT) will join the ruling NDA, he said, adding that the poll results showed that the saffron party was not invincible.

"We will never go with those who tried to finish off our mother-like Shiv Sena," Thackeray declared, responding to speculation that he will realign with the BJP. Misusing central agencies against opposition leaders was "government Naxalism," he said.

"This is indeed Naxalism. This is more dangerous than urban Naxalism... it misuses power to break opposition parties, topple a good government and take opposition leaders in your party. This is Naxalism which kills democracy," Thackeray said.

The BJP was claiming that his party did not get votes of Hindus and Marathi-speakers, but the Sena (UBT) garnered votes from all communities, he said.

The BJP abandoned Hindutva for power, Thackeray alleged, and asked whether its alliance with regional outfits TDP and JDU was organic.

The BJP's Hindutva was "regressive" while the one professed by his party was "progressive", he said.

"Are Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar pro-Hindutva? I challenge Narendra Modi to go to Andhra Pradesh and say that I will fulfil the (assurances in) Chandrababu's manifesto. Hasn't Chandrababu made promises to the Muslim community? Hasn't Nitish Kumar given any assurances to the Muslim community in Bihar?" Thackeray further said.

Naidu and Kumar are key allies of the NDA and helped the BJP-led alliance reach the majority mark in the Lok Sabha.

Thackeray also demanded that no elections be held for 11 seats of the Maharashtra Legislative Council, where MLAs will be voting, till the Supreme Court rules on disqualification pleas related to some members of the state's lower house.

The rival Sena factions, led by Thackeray and Eknath Shinde, filed disqualification petitions against each other's legislators after Shinde split the party in June 2022 and joined hands with the BJP to form a government in the state. The Council elections are slated for July 12.

'Won LS seats because of Congress vote bank'

Meanwhile, Ekanth Shinde lashed out at Uddhav for aligning with the Congress and accused him of discarding the ideology of party founder late Bal Thackeray for vote-bank politics.

The Congress, the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the NCP (SP) are part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA).

Addressing an event organised on the occasion of the 58th Foundation Day of the Shiv Sena at the NSCI complex in Worli, he stressed that Bal Thackeray always opposed appeasement politics, but his party was not against patriotic Muslims.

Shinde claimed that Shiv Sena (UBT)'s electoral success in the Lok Sabha polls was ephemeral. He likened the Shiv Sena (UBT) poll victory to a "swelling" and added, "It comes soon and goes away quickly as well. In the coming elections, it will go away."

The Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT) won nine Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, while the Shiv Sena headed by Shinde emerged victorious in seven constituencies.

Shinde pointed out the Shiv Sena's victory in its bastions like Kalyan, Thane and Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar and said they show the party's formidable presence and support base in the state.

Asserting his enduring relevance in Maharashtra politics, Shinde, who became CM in June 2022 after revolting against the leadership of his then-boss Uddhav Thackeray, said he will win more elections, referring to the assembly polls which are due in October.

"Shinde's relevance has not ended... I will win more elections in the coming days as well," declared the CM, an ally of the BJP and the Ajit Pawar-led NCP.

Shinde asserted that Uddhav Thackeray lacked the moral authority to invoke the legacy of his father, Bal Thackeray, who founded the Shiv Sena in Mumbai in 1966. "Where has your Hindutva gone? You have no right to seek votes in Balasaheb Thackeray's name," the CM maintained, hitting out at his predecessor.

He cited the Lok Sabha poll results as evidence of the Shiv Sena's continuing influence in Maharashtra.

Shinde noted his faction retained 14.50 percent of the original 19 percent vote share of the undivided Shiv Sena, while the remaining votes went to Uddhav Thackeray's camp.

The Shiv Sena leader mocked the opposition INDIA bloc for its jubilation after the Lok Sabha poll results were announced on June 4.

The Congress, the lead party in the opposition bloc, contested 328 Lok Sabha seats but won only 99. Despite this, the INDIA bloc is celebrating as if it has formed a government, he said.

Shinde quipped, "They fell flat on their face but are acting as if they have achieved something remarkable."

"Shiv Sena (UBT) candidates could win only because of the Congress vote-bank. That vote-bank came as a breather for the Shiv Sena (UBT)," the CM emphasised.

He noted that Bal Thackeray always stood against the Congress, but his son Uddhav Thackeray is now aligned with the same party.

Shinde added, "Late Balasaheb always used to appeal to voters to bury the Congress party in the state. When it was in power, the Congress party took away the voting rights of Balasaheb. How come Uddhav's hands did not shiver when he appealed to people to vote for the Congress?"

Shinde said, despite the Shiv Sena losing four Lok Sabha seats in Mumbai, its performance was nothing short of commendable.

"In the state, we directly contested against the Shiv Sena (UBT) on 13 seats and emerged victorious on seven. Our win rate stood at a solid 47 percent, edging out their 42 percent," he pointed out.

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