Days after the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna published an edit critical of the Gujarati community in Mumbai, Raj Thackeray's MNS seems to have joined the bandwagon. The party strongly objected to promotional activities of the recently-launched Mumbai edition of the Gujarati daily Sandesh on BEST buses. The newspaper's advertisements highlight the contribution of the Gujaratis in the financial and intellectual development of Mumbai.
The MNS is opposed to the "intellectual development" part of the advertisements. "We agree that the community has played a role in the city's financial growth to some extent, but we cannot understand what is it about intellectual development. Have people like Balasaheb Thackeray and Jagannath alias Nana Shankarseth not contributed to the intellectual growth of the city? The campaign is hurting Mumbaikars. It will strain relations between the two communities," said Sandeep Deshpande, MNS group leader and member of the BEST committee.
He warned the BEST to remove the advertisements, saying the MNS will otherwise get it done in its own style. "The BEST will suffer if it does not remove the ads," he threatened. Shiv Sena corporator and chairman of BEST community Arvind Dudhwadkar immediately instructed his officials to bring down the banners on 200 buses. OP Gupta, general manager, BEST, said action will be taken as per norm.
The Gujarati community is upset with the MNS for taking such a stand. Dilip Patil, ex-BJP group leader in the BMC, said the party should focus on ways to improve services provided by BEST instead of engaging in such petty issues. "What he (Deshpande) is saying is completely wrong. The newspaper has launched its Mumbai edition and the management is promoting it. I can't see anything else beyond that. My stand will remain the same even if a newspaper in any other language makes similar claims," Patel told dna.
The Saamna edit led to outrage from the Gujaratis after which the Shiv Sena had to clarify that it was not against the community and that the party has always enjoyed cordial relations with Gujaratis in Mumbai. The MNS' recent move is likely to stoke another controversy.