Invoking Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who enjoys a talismanic appeal in the party cadre and pro-Hindutva voters, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday revived the Hindutva card and called for the Congress to be booted out of power.
Revitalising the party and launching its Lok Sabha campaign, Uddhav, who was addressing a ‘Nirdhar Melawa’ on Thackeray Sr’s birth anniversary, played a recorded speech of his father from the 1990s. In the speech, Thackeray is seen administering oath to Shiv Sainiks to pledge loyalty to the party in the name of the family deity and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and elect it to power. The Sena-BJP government ruled Maharashtra from 1995 to 1999.
The jubilant crowd of more than 2 lakh people repeated the oath relayed on giant screens put up all over Sion’s Somaiya grounds. Later, Uddhav administered another oath in which Sainiks were asked to pledge that they would never abandon fiery Hindutva and pull down the “arrogant, power-drunk” Congress from its seat of power and fulfil Thackeray’s dream.
‘Shiv Bandhans’ or special consecrated threads were tied on the wrists of Sainiks to seal the pledge. While Uddhav called on the cadre to vote the Shiv Sena-BJP to power, he did not mention BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi by name.
Modi, in his rally in Mumbai in December, had refrained from mentioning either the Sena or Thackeray.
However, Uddhav goofed up in his 45-minute speech, saying that the prime minister addresses the nation from Delhi’s Red Fort on January 26 and claimed that the coming Republic Day would be the last time that a Congress PM would do so.
“The issue of Hindutva is important before the polls. However, when we speak on Hindutva, we are labeled as being fundamentalist,” said Uddhav, accusing the Congress and NCP of indulging in minority appeasement for votes. He denied charges that the Sena was anti-Muslim and pointed to the presence of veteran sainik Murtuza Shaikh on stage. He blamed the Congress for its divide-and-rule politics, which was used to perpetuate dynastic rule.
“If the Congress government or a weak prime minister like Manmohan Singh is elected again, the country will be ruined,” said Uddhav. “The next prime minister will be from the Shiv Sena and BJP alliance,” he said, claiming that the Congress was not projecting vice-president Rahul Gandhi as the PM nominee as they were staring at defeat.
Uddhav’s wife Rashmi was declared as the chief of the Sena’s federation for women self-help groups. Surprisingly, no Sena leader, except mayor Sunil Prabhu, spoke before Uddhav’s address.