Maharashtra's new Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday sidestepped a question on his Shiv Sena embracing secularism, saying the party was only going by what is prescribed in the Constitution. At his first press conference after being sworn in as Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray was asked whether his party's decision to tie up with the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) amounted to the Shiv Sena accepting secularism. "What does secular mean? It is what's written in the Constitution," he countered.
Leaders of the "Maha Vikas Aghadi" had laid down their joint vision on secularism at a press meet held just hours before Uddhav Thackeray's oath ceremony at Shivaji Park in Mumbai.
"Secularism means that Hindus will remain Hindus and Muslims will remain Muslims. This is for those who don't understand this," NCP leader Jayant Patil said in the presence of Shiv Sena colleague Eknath Shinde. Both were sworn in as ministers of the new government.
The Shiv Sena, identified with Hindutva politics, faced criticism after it broke up with the BJP, its ally of over 30 years, following a power tussle after the October Maharashtra election, and tied up with the Congress-NCP in a bid for chief ministership.
Former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP delivered a no-holds-barred speech against Uddhav Thackeray two days ago, proclaiming that the "Shiv Sena's Hindutva now lies at the feet of (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi".
Mr Fadnavis also claimed that the alliance between the three parties would act as a three-wheeler whose wheels move in opposite directions. "It will be a very unstable government because they have huge ideological differences," he predicted.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar also accused the Shiv Sena of "betraying the people's mandate", and said that Uddhav Thackeray had made a big mistake by allying with two parties that had "tried to block the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya".
On Thursday, the hashtag #SorryBalasaheb trended for some time on Twitter. The insinuation here was that Uddhav Thackeray had betrayed his father Bal Thackeray's Hindutva legacy by allying with ideological rivals.