Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray on Wednesday squarely blamed his estranged cousin and former CM Uddhav Thackeray for many Shiv Sena leaders quitting the party and said as chief minister he was not ready to meet anyone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing a rally of his party at the Shivaji Park in central Mumbai, the MNS leader blamed Uddhav Thackeray for many Shiv Sena leaders parting ways with him in the past, including Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and 39 MLAs supporting him, who raised a banner of revolt in June last year.
The rally was organized on the occasion of Gudi Padwa, a festival which marks the start of the Marathi New Year.
Raj Thackeray said he will renew his campaign to pull down loudspeakers from mosques if the states government does not take any action in the matter. The MNS chief demanded the withdrawal of nearly 17,000 cases slapped on his party workers last year when they launched protests seeking the removal of loudspeakers from mosques. At the rally, Raj Thackeray also showed a clip in which he claimed a mosque was being built in the sea in the Mahim area of Mumbai for the last two years. The MNS leader said if no action is taken in the matter in a month, his party will build a Ganesh temple at the same site.
Raj Thackeray blamed Uddhav Thackeray for his and former chief minister and now Union minister Narayan Rane's exit from the Shiv Sena. Raj Thackeray and Rane, who is now in the BJP, quit the party in 2005 following differences with its president Uddhav Thackeray.
“Alibaba and his 40 (MLAs) went. I am not able to call them robbers because they are not robbers. They left because they were tired of them,” Raj Thackeray said, referring to Chief Minister Shinde, whose rebellion against the Shiv Sena leadership brought down the Uddhav Thackeray government in June last year. “This chief minister (Uddhav Thackeray - who held the post from November 2019-June 2022) was not even ready to meet anyone during the COVID-19 pandemic. An MLA went to meet him with his son. The MLA's son was asked to wait outside. He (Uddhav) never met anyone and now he has suddenly started stepping out,” the MNS leader said.
The MNS chief took a dig at Uddhav Thackeray over the Shinde group getting the 'bow and arrow' poll symbol and also the Shiv Sena name, and said no one else other than party founder Bal Thackeray could handle the symbol. “One could not handle it and (I am) not sure whether the other could handle it,” Raj Thackeray added. He asked Chief Minister Shinde not to hold rallies just to counter Uddhav Thackray and advised him to focus on the administration and resolving issues related to farmers and other sections of society. The MNS president slammed the Shinde-BJP government for spending Rs 1,700 crore for the beautification of Mumbai and said the metropolis resembles a "dance bar", referring to the lighting done by the city administration.
He praised veteran lyricist Javed Akhtar for his comments related to the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai during his visit to Pakistan.
Akhtar, who was in Pakistan for a festival in memory of celebrated Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz last month, said Pakistanis should not feel offended when India talks about the 2008 terror attacks. “We are people from Mumbai, we have seen the attack on our city. They (attackers) did not come from Norway or Egypt. They are still roaming freely in your country. So if there is a grievance in the heart of a Hindustani, you should not feel offended,” the 78-year-old lyricist had said.