Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Thursday said the name of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray cannot be separated from the Ayodhya movement, a remark that came in the wake of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Chandrakant Patil questioning the role of Sena workers in the Babri mosque demolition.
Disapproving of Patil's remarks, Shinde said Ayodhya was a matter of faith for him.
Speaking at the Mumbai Tak-Baithak interaction, the chief minister said, "I told BJP leader and minister Chandrakant Patil that he shouldn't have spoken against Balasaheb Thackeray." Patil's statement that not a single Sena worker was present when the Babri mosque in Ayodhya was demolished in 1992 has put the BJP in a spot, as it is a partner in the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena in the Maharashtra government.
"Ayodhya is a matter of faith for me...We got the Shiv Sena name and symbol because people have accepted our stand on why we rebelled," he said, adding that his government was not scared of holding local bodies elections in the state.
"Balasaheb Thackeray cannot be taken out of the Ayodhya movement. The late Sena chief gave the slogan 'Garv se kaho hum Hindu hai' (Say with pride, we are Hindus) and people became united as Hindus," he said.
Shinde said Patil told him that he did not mean to disrespect the late Sena supremo.
"We sent silver bricks (to Ayodhya) from Thane. I want to ask where was today's leader during the 'kar seva' (movement to demolish the Babri structure)," he said, apparently targeting Uddhav Thackeray.
Shinde also made light of the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA)'s joint 'Vajramuth' rallies in the state by dubbing them as "Vajrajhooth".
Referring to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's attack on the central government and late Hindutva ideologue V D Savarkar, Shinde said the opposition has been insulting India and Maharashtra within the country as well as abroad.
"This is nothing but treason," he said.
Targeting Uddhav Thackeray, Shinde said the state saw lack of development because of his ego.
"What is the harm in seeking help from the Centre for state's welfare?" he asked.
Shinde said his government was focusing on infrastructure development which was stopped during the erstwhile MVA rule.
"During the COVID-19 pandemic, Uddhav Thackeray 's contribution was making people sit at home," he said.
The opposition cannot digest the fact that our government is doing well, Shinde said.
The mandate in the 2019 Assembly elections was for the Shiv Sena-BJP and had the MVA continued, the future of the Shiv Sena MLAs was bleak, he said, adding that the "gaddar" (traitor) tag should be for Uddhav Thackeray and not for him.
To a question on whether he was the chief leader of the Shiv Sena, he said he was a worker and would remain so.
When asked if the 2024 Assembly election would be led by him, Shinde said the polls are still far away.
"Having a face is immaterial. Workers are the face of the party," he said.
To a question on the disqualification of a 16-member rebel group, Shinde said his government was constitutional and as per democratic norms.
"Let's wait for the Supreme court verdict...I am not under any pressure. I don't compromise my ethics and principles under pressure, He refused to go into the details on speculation that a breakaway group of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by Ajit Pawar may join the ruling Shiv Sena-BJP alliance.
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