By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Mar 22 (IANS): Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray on Wednesday launching a blistering attack on Chief Minister Eknath Shinde's government as well his estranged cousin and former CM Uddhav Thackeray as he demanded that the state elections must be held "immediately".
Addressing a massive Gudi Padwa rally at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Park here, he said that "we cannot have a government that keeps glancing at the court for its survival", and hence the state assembly polls should be conducted "right now".
Returning to his popular rally style of "Laav re te video" (Play that video), Raj Thackeray attacked Shinde's rebellion of June 2022, saying it was the first time that "Ali Baba and 40 persons" looted Maharashtra and fled to Surat, then to Assam and Goa and finally returned to the state to become the CM.
"Why did they go? Because of the harassment of these people," he said, implying the Shiv Sena-UBT President and ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray.
The MNS chief then gave an earful to Shinde. "Now that you have become the CM, do some work. Don't go around holding rallies to reply to Uddhav Thackeray wherever he goes... first he (Uddhav) went to Worli, then Khed, you also went to Worli and Khed. But what about the people of the state? Better start working for them."
He touched upon how new investments don't seem to be coming to Maharashtra, there are the problems of farmers, unemployment and other issues which need urgent attention.
Raj Thackeray also cited old instances why he and others like Narayan Rane were victims of Uddhav Thackeray's machinations which compelled them to leave the Shiv Sena founded by the late Balasaheb Thackeray.
He claimed to be feeling very sad at the tussles over Shiv Sena and its bow and arrow symbol after the party split last year.
He recalled how his uncle (Balasaheb Thackeray) had attempted a patch-up between the cousins, and also Rane, but it didn't work out.
"I sensed at that time the party would be finished by these people and didn't want to be any part of it... It was not a bow and arrow (Dhanushbaan), but a Shiv Dhanushbaan, and only a person like Balasaheb Thackeray could wield it... When one (Uddhav) couldn't handle it, how can the other (Shinde)," he said.
His oblique reference was to the Shiv Sena split with the Election Commission last month awarding the original name and symbol to the Shinde faction and Uddhav Thackeray was left with the Shiv Sena-UBT name and the 'flaming torch' symbol.
Raj Thackeray also said that soon after leaving the Shiv Sena, he decided to form the MNS. "But, at that time, when Balasaheb Thackeray was around, I was reluctant, thinking how I would launch a party in front of my uncle's eyes, wondering who would come with me and so on..."
He then attacked Uddhav Thackeray for allegedly betraying the Bharatiya Janata Party after the 2019 Assembly polls, then joining hands with the very same parties against whom it fought (Congress-Nationalist Congress Party). "Now, those who said that the MNS is a non-entity, look at their fate today."
Reverting to his pet theme of shutting down loudspeakers on mosques, Raj Thackeray said that after a lull, the blaring of 'azaan' (call for 'namaz') had resumed, as the holy month of Ramadan started.
"I have not abandoned that campaign and will not give it up in future... The loudspeakers must go. I will meet the CM with this demand. Either he must order them to stop, or ignore us," he said, issuing a veiled threat.
However, he publicly patted Bollywood writer-poet Javed Akhtar for his courageous statements in Pakistan which is shielding the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes.
"What kind of Muslims we need? People like Javed Akhtar. He went to Pakistan and gave them a piece of his mind. How many here can do this?" he said.