Mumbai/Nagpur: Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Saturday hit back at Shiv Sena accusing it of corruption and carrying out “extortion holding saffron flag in hand”. By publicly talking about Shiv Sena’s extortion, Fadnavis indicated that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena fight for political control over India’s financial capital would turn more visceral as the campaign progresses.
Fadnavis blamed Shiv Sena for its “incompetent and corrupt civic governance for 25 years in Mumbai which has left Mumbai in a shambles”. Addressing BJP’s booth-level workers two days after the Shiv Sena broke its alliance with the party for civic and zilla parishad polls in Maharashtra, Fadnavis questioned Shiv Sena’s commitment to Shivaji Maharaj.
“You have no right to even utter the name of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj because you carry out extortion by holding saffron flag in your hand. The Congress did the same holding the tricolour in hand and you have continued it at Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC),” Fadnavis said. “People voted us for change but if by change you mean extorting money exactly the way Congress-NCP did, then I do not accept your appropriation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj because he set benchmarks of clean, transparent, and efficient administration,” he said.
Making an aggressive pitch for the BJP in the Mumbai civic polls on 21 February, Fadnavis said the BJP would fight these elections on the plank of development and transparency in civic governance. Without naming Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut, Fadnavis said the ‘modern day Duryodhana in Shiv Sena was still surrounded by Shakuni-like characters”. In the Mahabharata, Shakuni, Duryodhana’s maternal uncle, was his main Machiavelian advisor.
Reacting to Sanjay Raut’s claim that the BJP did not have strength to even claim 60 seats in Mumbai, Fadnavis said the BJP would show its strength to these “Shakuni-like people of Shiv Sena” on 23 February when the results of civic elections are out.
The chief minister said the BJP was ready for scaling back its demand for 114 seats provided the Shiv Sena accepted the agenda of transparency and corruption-free civic administration. “I told BJP leaders who went for negotiations that I did not mind contesting a few seats less than what we had asked for. But by offering us only 60 seats, the Shiv Sena conveyed that it was against the agenda of transparency and never wanted to form an alliance in the first place,” Fadnavis said.
He reminded Shiv Sena that the BJP’s vote-share in general elections and assembly elections in 2014 was much bigger than the Shiv Sena’s. “Yet, I accepted the contention that the vote-share in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections cannot be the yardstick for municipal corporation polls. That is why I proposed the agenda of transparency and corruption-free civic governance. But the Shiv Sena is not obviously not in favour of transparency,” he said.
Stressing that the BJP’s alliance with Shiv Sena was formed on the plank of Hindutva and ideology, Fadnavis made it clear that the BJP did not consider Shiv Sena “an ideological enemy”. “But there is a dichotomy between what Shiv Sena says and does. We are not ideologically opposed to Shiv Sena but we have objections to its conduct. The BJP will fight this election against Congress-NCP’s ideology and Shiv Sena’s conduct and corruption,” Fadnavis told the BJP workers.