Firing a fresh salvo at the BJP which had accused the Shiv Sena of paying only lip service to the cause of Hindutva, party MP Sanjay Raut on Tuesday claimed that the Sena was the first party in the country to contest an election on the Hindutva plank.
Talking to reporters, Raut referred to a bypoll held for the Vile Parle Assembly seat in Mumbai, saying Shiv Sena candidate Ramesh Prabhu had contested on the agenda of Hindutva. It was for the first time that Hindutva was mentioned in electoral politics in the country, Raut said, adding that Congress and BJP were also in the fray in that byelection.
Prabhu had won the Vile Parle Assembly segment in the byelection held in 1987-88 and retained the seat in the 1990 polls. "It is after this victory that the BJP approached Shiv Sena for an alliance on Hindutva which Balasaheb (Thackeray) agreed to as he didn't want a division of Hindu votes. Contemporary BJP leaders are unaware of this history," Raut said in a veiled dig at Opposition Leader Devendra Fadnavis.
Raut's comments come amid a war of words between the Shiv Sena and BJP which erupted after Sena president and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday accused his former ally of practising "hollow" Hindutva for power. Hitting back at the Shiv Sena, Fadnavis on Monday said the Sena's Hindutva is merely on paper and finds mention just in speeches, while it was his party men who faced bullets and lathis during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.
Raut alleged that the BJP has neglected family members of its stalwarts like late Pramod Mahajan, Gopinath Munde and Manohar Parrikar who helped build that party in Maharashtra and Goa. Recently, Parrikar's son Utpal quit BJP and announced to contest the upcoming Assembly election from Panaji constituency, represented by his father for two decades before his death in 2019.
The day before, Fadnavis had claimed that even before the Shiv Sena was born (in 1966), there was Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the forerunner of the BJP, which had corporators in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and MLAs in the state.
When asked about CM Thackeray's remarks that Sena should "capture" Delhi, Raut clarified that he meant defeating BJP at the national level. "The country is supreme and Delhi, which is the national capital, should not be dominated by one or two people," he said. Raut told reporters that Sena MLA and Maharashtra minister Aaditya Thackeray will campaign for candidates of his party and NCP in Goa, where elections will be held on February 14.
Speaking on National Voters' Day, which is observed on Tuesday, Raut said confusion and fear prevail among voters on whether their vote goes to the candidate they have voted for. He demanded that the election system be reverted to ballot papers from EVMs.
With inputs from PTI.