Mumbai: Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray today met six activists of his party who were arrested on Monday night for throwing black paint on columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni, and delivered a pat on their backs.
Party sources said the Sena chief felicitated the workers, who were released on bail this morning, and said, "Well done."
"What these men have done is like soldiers fighting on the border with Pakistan. For us they are soldiers and what is wrong with felicitating them," said Sena lawmaker Sanjay Raut.
On Monday, the Sena activists stopped Mr Kulkarni's car and threw paint on him for rejecting the party's demand that former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri's book launch be called off.
Mr Kulkarni a former BJP advisor and organiser for the event, appeared at a press conference, his face smeared with paint, and declared that, "the show will go on."
Mr Kasuri's book "Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider's Account of Pakistan's Foreign Policy" was launched on Monday evening without further incident, with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis providing the former Pakistani minister with unprecedented security.
The Shiv Sena, which partners the BJP in the Fadnavis government, said its protest continued. The party says it is opposed to any engagement with Pakistan as long as the country supports terror and had last week, forced the cancellation of a concert in Mumbai by Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali.
In an editorial in its mouthpiece the Saamna, the Shiv Sena launched a blistering attack on Mr Kulkarni, comparing him to 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab, and praising his attackers. "Sudheendra Kulkarni proudly showed off his black face and his shamelessness. Patriots blackened the face of Pakistan's chamchas (sycophants)," it said.
It also attacked Mr Fadnavis who accused the Shiv Sena of shaming Maharashtra with its attack on Mr Kulkarni.
Monday's incident brought the two allies closer to a breakpoint, one they have been steadily approaching since assembly elections in Maharashtra last year shifted the balance of power in the BJP's favour.
After Mr Fadnavis criticised it last evening, the Sena firmed up plans to dismantle their alliance for crucial civic elections in a Mumbai suburb.