The Shiv Sena has accused the Gujarati community of exploiting Mumbai to earn wealth and criticised it for a lack of sense of belonging to the city and Maharashtra.
An editorial published in "Saamna", the official mouthpiece of the party, on Thursday, said: "The Gujarati and other bepari (trader) communities in Maharashtra which united with pride as Gujaratis for (Narendra Modi) must now come together for Shivray's (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj) Maharashtra and join in the celebrations on Maharashtra's foundation day."
The comment reveals internal contradictions and widening cracks within the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, which has been under some strain recently over some BJP leaders associating with Raj Thackeray's MNS. The Shiv Sena is the oldest ally of the BJP.
"Staying in Mumbai, they enjoyed wealth. They minted money... those who were penniless exploited Mumbai, Maharashtra and built their own Dwarka of gold and are calling the shots in the country's power politics based on this wealth generated from Mumbai. They are chalking out plans on who is to be made the prime minister and who is to be deposed," read the editorial, which was an obvious reference to the Gujaratis. Uddhav Thackeray, the president of the Shiv Sena, is also editor of "Saamna".
"But, how many beparis come down from their skyscrapers to participate in the Maharashtra Day celebrations and repay their obligation to Maharashtra?" the editorial asked. It pointed out that Maharashtra was formed for the welfare of Maharashtrians and the Marathi language and warned of retaliation "if anyone wanted to preserve their bepari identity by dancing on their (Maharashtrian) chests."
Asked about the cause for such a comment, a senior Shiv Sena leader told dna that there was concern among Maharashtrians about the possibility of Gujarati-speaking people asserting themselves in Mumbai and the state if and when Modi is anointed as prime minister.
"The editorial reflects the popular sentiment," the Sena leader said and he pointed to new exclusionist "vegetarian" housing complexes coming up in traditional Marathi-speaking areas like Parel, where "non-vegetarians" like Maharashtrians could not buy a house even if they had the money.
Residents in some towers have also objected to fish markets and meat shops in the vicinity which has irked Maharashtrians, who love their non-vegetarian food and have stakes in the business.
The editorial also blamed leaders from Maharashtra in Delhi for not raising the issues of Mumbai's Maharashtrians and the travails of Marathis in the border areas of Karnataka like Belgaum and Nippani.
Sanjay Raut, spokesperson of the Shiv Sena and member of the Rajya Sabha who is also executive editor of "Saamna", said the editorial did not target any particular community.
"People from across the country come to Mumbai to do business. They must love Maharashtra and have a sense of belonging. Sending money earned in Maharashtra to other states harms it," he said, and added that the funds should be re-invested here to ensure benefits to Maharashtra.
However, BJP leaders miffed at the comment said Shiv Sena and MNS leaders with stakes in the construction industry had neglected the Maharashtrians. "The Marathi manoos has been pushed out of Mumbai under the watch of the Shiv Sena and the MNS," a BJP leaders said. He said that the Shiv Sena had in fact benefited from the Gujarati vote in the Lok Sabha polls.
MNS leader Vageesh Saraswat, himself a North Indian, stressed it was necessary for those living in Maharashtra to pay their respects to the 106 people who had laid down their lives for Samyukta Maharashtra.