Apparently eyeing a larger role in Maharashtra politics, Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is now making attempts to shed its "anti-North Indian" image by reaching out to the community, which accounts for sizeable number of voters in the state. "MNS was never against North Indians.
"North Indians have lot of misunderstanding about our party spread by media by twisting Raj's statements. He has entrusted me the task of initiating a dialogue among the community members in Mumbai and clear the misconception and explain the MNS chief's development agenda for Maharashtra," Vageesh Saraswat, a journalist-turned politician and a key aide of Raj, told PTI.
The toning down of MNS stand on North Indians was evident last month when the party invited megastar Amitabh Bachchan for a event organised for Cine Artistes Welfare.
"It was not about toning down of anti-North India rhetoric. Bachchan began his speech in Marathi. He has considered Maharashtra as his 'karmbhoomi'. We were never against Bachchan. Criticism about the legendary actor was issue based.
"We just said Bachchan is a huge icon respected all over the country. We opposed his being brand ambassador of other states while he lives in Mumbai. But he is committed to Mumbai and the state as well," he said.
Saraswat claimed that MNS has never indulged in violence against North Indians but insisted that the party will react if the sentiments of Marathi-speaking people are hurt.
"We consider those who are dedicated to Maharashtra and Marathi as our own irrespective of which part of the country they come from. Marathi-speaking people will definitely react angrily if their sentiments are hurt and if migrants consider Mumbai as a 'kamdhenu' (cow) and just want to milk it."