Repeated disruptions by the BJP in the Maharashtra assembly over Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's comments on Hindutva ideologue Vinayak Damodar Savarkar drew a stinging response from the ruling Shiv Sena on Monday, with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray targeting the BJP over promises left "unfulfilled" under the previous Devendra Fadnavis government.
The winter session of the Maharashtra assembly in Nagpur got off to a volatile start with BJP MLAs led by the party state president Chandrakant Patil and Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis holding a demonstration on the steps of the assembly building with caps reading "I am Savarkar".
"The message is loud and clear. The country is annoyed and angry that Savarkar has been insulted by Rahul Gandhi. We want his apology. At the same time, we want the Shiv Sena to clear their stand on whether they are for Savarkar or for power," BJP leader Ashish Shekar said.
Speaking to his partymen on Monday evening, Mr Thackeray said: "They attacked us on the issue of Savarkar. I am not responsible for that issue. But earlier we had struck an alliance for Akhand Bharat not only from Kashmir to Kanyakumari but the India before Independence, including Pakistan. That was the dream of Savarkar and that's why we had struck an alliance, to fulfil that dream of Akhand Hindustan. The sad part is, nobody is talking about that dream."
"We are no doubt always Hindutva-vadi. I had said so in the Vidhan Sabha. We have not done any (ideological) conversion. We were Hindus even when a party had snapped ties with us in 2014 (ahead of the assembly elections)," Mr Thackeray was quoted as saying by news agency PTI in an attack against former ally BJP.
"They ask when I will declare the loan waiver for farmers. I will do it because I have promised it. You remember the promises we made, but what about yours? Why are you worked up when people ask where is acche din? When you did demonetisation, you asked for fifty days but so many fifties have gone by," he said, adding that the BJP should look into its own unfulfilled promises before pointing fingers at others.
Alliance partners Congress and NCP also came to the Shiv Sena's defence, claiming that the Savarkar issue will not create any friction in the alliance. "There is no rule allowing the BJP to discuss Rahul Gandhi's comments because he is not a member of this house. They know this. They are hiding behind Savarkar because we were about to raise the issue of corruption in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial. They are afraid of that," NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik said, adding that BJP leader Nitish Rane had also insulted Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in a tweet.
"The Shiv Sena and Congress may differ on Savarkar but they govern Maharashtra on the basis of a common minimum programme," said Ashok Chavan, Congress leader and former Chief Minister.
(With Inputs From PTI)