- It is a significant admission from the firebrand Sena chief
- He is known for his pro-Hindutva politics
- This statement was made in the Maharashtra assembly last week
Uddhav Thackeray, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, has said it was his party Shiv Sena's "mistake" to mix religion with politics and stay with the BJP. It is a significant admission from the firebrand Sena chief, who is known for his pro-Hindutva politics and has made no bones about his views on subjects like the temple-mosque dispute in Ayodhya.
This statement was made in the Maharashtra assembly last week, weeks after he took on an administrative role for the first time in his political career. He was responding to his predecessor and former ally Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP, who had taunted him on turning his back on his party's ideology to tie up with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Reminding the BJP of its own alliances with parties of opposite ideologies like Mamata Banerjee, Ram Vilas Paswan and even the PDP, Uddhav Thackeray said by mixing religion and politics and staying with the BJP was a mistake.
"You (Devendra Fadnavis) talked about the people's mandate. But this is politics. We were probably making a mistake that we were mixing politics and religion. But at that time we forgot that even the followers of 'dharma' lost in gambling (reference to Mahabharata). Politics is a gamble. You should keep it in its rightful place. We had forgotten this. We started mixing religion and politics and we took a hit for that. We stayed together for 25 years and we stayed because of Hindutva. We haven't changed religion. We were Hindus yesterday, today and tomorrow. But what about you? You allied with everyone from opposite ideologies like Mamata (Mamata Banerjee) Ramvilas Paswan and even the PDP."
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray reiterated, "Dharma is not only to be spoken about. It must be followed. Religion is not only in books. It must stay in real life."
He then went on to say, "Devendra-ji you asked me if had promised Balasaheb that I would form a government with the Congress. No I did not promise that. I did not say that. But since when have you been keen on keeping promises? I kept whatever promise I made and I will keep whatever promises we make."
"Our government is for those who travel in rickshaws. Not for those who travel in bullet trains," he said in a veiled dig at the ruling BJP at the centre.
Mr Thackeray took power after the Shiv Sena ended its three-decade-old ties with the BJP over power-sharing in Maharashtra and teamed up with ideological rivals NCP and Congress. "Our government is new. I have new friends in Congress and NCP," Chief Minister Thackeray added.
The contradictions have already surfaced with differences between the Sena and the Congress on the citizenship law and Rahul Gandhi's remarks on Veer Savarkar, rebutted by the Sena's Sanjay Raut.
Mr Thackeray also took on the BJP on its statement that Sena's Subhash Desai held the industries portfolio and was equally responsible for the economic situation of the state. Thackeray said, "flawed GST (Goods and Services Tax) butchered the economy".
"You kept saying we had the industries portfolios. Yes that portfolio was with Desai (Subhash Desai). But what about the Kasai (butcher) on the other side? Demonetisation and flawed GST butchered the economy. I am using the term butcher in that context," he said on the floor of the house.
On the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which the Sena supported in the Lok Sabha but not in the Rajya Sabha under Congress pressure, Mr Thackeray said: "Bring back Hindus from other countries but where will you rehabilitate them? Let the court decide."
The new citizenship law - the first law to make religion a criterion for citizenship - says that minorities from the Muslim-dominated countries of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh can become Indian citizens easily if they fled religious persecution and entered India before 2015. Critics allege the law discriminates against Muslims and is against the principles of secularism and equality in the constitution.