India needs a "strong" prime minister, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray declared Sunday, reiterating his party's support to BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
The need for a "strong person" to lead the country was necessary as the Congress party had become weak, he told the Shiv Sena's first Dassehra rally after the late Bal Thackeray's demise a year ago.
On the issue of minorities, Thackeray said that the Shiv Sena was not anti-Muslim but it opposed what he described as the pampering of the community by the Congress to secure Muslim votes.
Echoing sentiments of many within and outside the party, Thackeray confessed that he was apprehensive if the first Dassehra rally post the iconic Bal Thackeray would be a success.
"Now, after seeing you here in such large numbers, I feel relieved," he said to applause.
Displaying shades reminiscent of his father, Thackeray targeted the central and state governments and Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar.
"Sharad Pawar is more concerned about cricket than the poor farmers dying in Maharashtra," he said.
"Instead of criticizing Narendra Modi, why can't Sharad Pawar take to task his nephew (Ajit Pawar)?", he asked, accusing Ajit Pawar of corruption.
Assuring democracy in the party, Thackeray said he would take decisions after thinking carefully and not under any pressure.
"I shall remain the party chief till I enjoy your confidence and support. The day you lose faith in me, I shall quit," he said.
He thanked the Bombay High Court for permitting the Sena rally at the Shivaji Park, the traditional venue for 46 years, till it was declared a silent zone.
Before the rally, former chief minister and party leader Manohar Joshi was booed by the gathering for what many felt were objectionable comments on party leaders a couple of days ago.
Sensing the mood of the gathering, Joshi quietly retreated from the rally and, perhaps for the first time in four decades, missed sitting through the party chief's speech.