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In a turnaround, Shiv Sena now speaks of a miracle if Gujaratis and Maharashtrians unite

Saturday, 3 May 2014 - 7:45am IST | Agency: dna

It was indeed a dramatic turnaround. On Friday, the Shiv Sena struck a conciliatory note with party president Uddhav Thackeray promising a "miracle" if Maharashtrians and Gujaratis stayed united.

It was only on Thursday that Sena mouthpiece Saamna carried an editorial lambasting Gujaratis and other trading communities. They were accused of exploiting Mumbai for wealth and not being loyal to Maharashtra.

Uddhav, who is said to be holidaying abroad, issued a statement alleging that vested interests wanted to drive a wedge between the two communities, and appealed to the saffron alliance to remain united to win the assembly polls.

Uddhav's statement may be interpreted as a snub to Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, who is Saamna's executive editor. Raut could not be contacted for his comments.

Sena sources said Uddhav's statement had been dictated by pre-poll political exigencies like Mumbai's changing demographic profile, where Maharashtrians have been pushed beyond margins.

"Let the elections conclude, these issues can be addressed then," said a Sena source who admitted the editorial's language was "harsh."

Sena leaders admit that the lower and middle-class Gujaratis, who share living space with Maharashtrians in chawls and slums, voted for the Sena in the Lok Sabha polls.

Uddhav said the people of Maharashtra, especially Maharashtrian and Gujarati Hindus, had voted unitedly for a strong government at the Centre, adding that late Sena chief Bal Thackeray had spoken of a "chamatkar" (miracle) in the country if Marathis and Gujaratis of Mumbai united. He claimed the Lok Sabha result would see the beginning of that "miracle."

Sena sources said attempts within the party to up the ante against Gujaratis and by consequence, the BJP, could be the result of the Sena, which allied with the BJP in 1989, being relegated to the status of a junior partner in the alliance after Modi emerged on the national stage.

Sena which has a broader base in the state than the BJP, has always considered itself the senior partner. However, the 2009 assembly polls saw it end up with fewer seats than the BJP and lose the status of the principal opposition in the legislature.

The Sena's damage control mode led industries minister Narayan Rane's son Nitesh, who heads Swabhimaan Sanghatana, and had raised the issue earlier, to charge that "on the ground, Marathi manoos was being discriminated against with houses being denied to him and his food habits being dictated." It was not just a political issue, but a question of social existence, Nitesh had said.

The Sena's critics also point out that the party, despite its pre-eminence in Mumbai's politics, had been unable to create an entrepreneurial spirit among Maharashtrians.

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