Mumbai: Uddhav Thackeray has a premonition: “I see a mid-term election happening, the people seem ready.” The presage is not derived from the astrologers that politicians regularly draw on. As the leader of one of the two parties in Maharashtra’s coalition government, Mr Thackeray should know. But he’s also playing a little coy. “We will decide on withdrawing support (to the government) after the BMC election,” he told NDTV today.
For the first time ever, his party, the Shiv Sena, is competing against the BJP for control of Mumbai’s municipal corporation, which runs on 37,000 crores a year, making it the richest of its kind in Asia. For 20 years, the Sena has led the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) with four back-to-back terms. The election is on the 21st of this month. “Mumbai is our bastion,” Mr Thackeray said today, “I will not tolerate any slurs against it. Say what you like about me, but not our city.”
He was objecting to the allegations raised by the BJP that the corporation’s spending of its incredulous budget lacks transparency, and that on the Sena’s watch, large scams have been ventured, among them, a 350-crore ghotala (scam) that allowed sub-standard roads to be built with cheap material but at inflated prices. “Go through the Economic Survey,” Mr Thackeray, 56, said, flipping the pages of the report open. “Does it say that anywhere?” he demanded, pointing out that the document is created by the Finance Ministry in a BJP-led government. About his famous rapport with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP, he said, “Cordial ties does not mean you can lie.”
In an interview to NDTV on the weekend, Mr Thackeray’s son, 26-year-old Aditya who is the Sena’s youth wing chief, said that the BJP’s desperation to stake claim to developing the BJP is exhibited in posters that credit Mr Fadnavis for the city’s metro rail. “But it is the Congress that introduced the project,” he said, referring to the two terms of the Congress-led coalition that ended when the BJP-Sena combine won Maharashtra in 2014.
But for that election, the parties competed against each other, and the BJP far outperformed the Sena. After the result, a coalition government was formed. Despite that, and the Sena’s continuance in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national coalition, Mr Thackeray has served as a sort of self-declared reality show judge, invariably rejecting key decisions and policies. None more so than the PM’s abrupt demonetisation drive, which whooshed out 86 per cent of the cash in circulation in November to uncover black money and punish its proliferators. The Sena was a prominent addition to the call-sheet of opposition leaders who attacked the move as poorly designed and thoughtlessly executed. “Anybody who is not pareshan (troubled) by demonetisation is not human,” Mr Thackeray said. “We had a lot of hopes of Modi-ji and we still have that, but he hasn’t delivered on his promises,” he charged, singling out the lack of progress in the construction of a Ram Mandir or temple in Ayodhya at the location of the Babri Masjid, the 16th-century mosque was torn down by thousands of right-wing volunteers in 1992, and considered integral by outfits like the Sena to the right-wing’s agenda.