Days after Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray washed his hands of an editorial in the party organ Saamna attacking the Gujarati community, the newspaper front-paged a statement by Yuva Sena chief and Uddhav's son Aaditya claiming that the editorial's meaning was "completely misconstrued and twisted" by some in the media.
Attempting to soothe frayed sentiments among Gujaratis before the assembly polls due a few months from now, the Sena mouthpiece on Sunday referred to Aaditya's tweets, posted four days ago, but claimed that the Sena scion had stood by the editorial.
Sources said Uddhav's move to stay away from the editorial may be a snub to Saamna editor Sanjay Raut, also a Rajya Sabha MP. Incidentally, following Sena's debacle in the 2009 state polls, a Saamna editorial had claimed that Maharashtrians had backstabbed the party. However, the then editor Bal Thackeray had distanced himself from the comment in a party meeting, reportedly leaving Raut in a spot.
In the tweet, Aaditya claimed the article had sought to convey that Marathi and Gujarati leaders needed to unite for the progress of the state and the communities. In a fresh tweet on Sunday, he called this an "unnecessary controversy" and "an attempt to sabotage the bond between (the) Shiv Sena and Gujarati community..."
Referring to Uddhav's statement, he said the Sena made "no difference between us and the Gujarati community of Mumbai and neither endorse such views by anyone as being those of the official party (sic) or leadership". Aaditya also claimed that Gujaratis were close to the heart of Balasaheb.
The Maharashtra Day editorial had accused Gujaratis and other trading communities, which have rallied behind Gujarat chief minister and the NDA's prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, of commercially exploiting Mumbai and questioned their sense of belonging to the city and Maharashtra.
Sena sources said this whitewash indicated that the party leadership feared that the Gujaratis would be voting against it in the assembly polls. They pointed out that Mumbai had undergone a demographic transformation with the Marathi manoos being reduced to a minority and pushed to the far-flung suburbs due to an overheated real-estate market.
"Maharashtrian votes are divided between the Shiv Sena and the MNS while North Indians view the parties with suspicion. Alienating Gujaratis, who are largely BJP supporters, will hurt us," said a Sena source.
Sena and BJP sources said lower and middle-class Gujaratis, who share living spaces with Maharashtrians in chawls and slums and culturally interact with them, may have voted for the Shiv Sena in the Lok Sabha polls in Mumbai to support Modi.
"The editorial may have said right things at the wrong time... this may lead to Gujarati voters going against us," said a Sena source, while admitting to unease between the party's core voters and the Gujarati community in the city over cultural assertion. That the BJP, which is riding on a Modi wave, has been seeking to assert itself over a post-Bal Thackeray Shiv Sena has not helped matter.
Though Sainiks vent their spleen against "vegetarian" buildings that have sprouted in pockets dominated by meat-eater Maharashtrians and calls to shift out meat and fish shops from the vicinity, others admit that the Sena, which controls the BMC and many of whose leaders have stakes in the construction industry, may not be above board.
Sena critics also point out that the party, despite its pre-eminence in Mumbai's politics, has been unable to create an entrepreneurial spirit among Maharashtrians.