A day after the Shiv Sena and the youth wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) clashed over Sena’s criticism of the alleged scam in the land deal for Ram Temple in Ayodhya, the issue has now become a Hindutva versus Marathi manoos between the two former allies. Calling its party headquarters Shiv Sena Bhavan a pride of Marathi manoos, Sena leaders said they will not tolerate or allow protest outside the building in central Mumbai. The BJP, on the other hand, questioned the Sena if opposition can hold a protest in matter related to Hindus and Hindutva.
With the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections seven months away, the two parties could target each other over their pet agendas — Hindutva and Marathi manoos.
Sena leader Sanjay Raut said no one should hold protest outside Shiv Sena Bhavan. He added that if the BJP is accusing them of ‘gundagiri’ then they accept the charge, saying the Marathi manoos’s gundagiri helped save Mumbai from the Centre. “If there is an allegation that the Sena indulges in hooliganism then it is correct. If you come onto us or at Shiv Sena Bhavan, which is a matter of pride, then we are gundas. Nobody needs to tell us that, we are certified gundas when it comes to Maharashtra’s pride and Hindutva. Because the Marathi manoos did “gundagiri” against Centre, that Mumbai is a part of Maharashtra today,” Raut said, adding that the incident near Shiv Sena Bhavan was “unfortunate” but there was “no other alternative”.
The Sena MP said no one has the courage to attack Shiv Sena Bhavan, and those who attempted it were given “Shiv prasad”. He questioned the BJP on why it was enraged by the Saamana editorial. Sena mouthpiece Saamana on Tuesday published an editorial saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi must intervene to ensure there is no “blot of scam” on the construction of Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Following this, high-voltage drama was witnessed near Sena headquarters on Wednesday afternoon, as workers of Sena and Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) clashed after the latter held a protest against the editorial.
“You (BJP) say allegations were made about Ram Temple [in the editorial]. First, read what is written in Saamana. It is written in Saamana that the allegation should be probed and if they are done with wrong intentions, action should be taken on those who levelled them. Why should it anger anyone? Nowhere have we made allegations against the BJP. Have we said that the scam (ghotala) has been done by the BJP? Ram Mandir Teerth Kshetra Nyas is an autonomous body. The people appointed there are independent. Are there any BJP workers in it? Allegations are levelled in connection with the place of faith. Is it a crime to ask for clarification,” he asked.
Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrakant Patil slammed the Sena. “You will go on writing editorials in Saamana but we cannot protest in a democracy? All required permission were taken for the protest. They claim that the [BJP] workers had stones and sticks in their hands; check CCTV footage from the area and take action as per the law if anyone was carrying them… The matter is not about BJP, VHP, or the Ram Mandir Trust. We feel we should react to matter related to Hindus. They have abandoned Hindutva. This issue [of the alleged scam] was raked up by the Congress and anti-national forces, but if you call yourselves nationalist, how can you support it,” Patil questioned.
Responding to Patil, Raut said they stand by the opposition party’s right to protest and believe that opposition must protest against things they do not feel are correct. “We stand by the opposition’s right to hold protests. But while doing so they must consider things that concern our faith, such a Shiv Sena Bhavan. What happened yesterday was unfortunate but there was no other alternative… Shiv Sena Bhavan is an exception in Maharashtra and this country; no protest must be held outside it,” Raut said.
Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said the clash between the two parties is expected as their ideologies remain similar. He said it was a “miscalculated step” by the BJP to hold protest outside Shiv Sena Bhavan, as Sena’s credential on Ram temple is clear since the demolition of Babri mosque.
“When BJP or no other Hindu outfit took the ownership of the mosque demolition, Balasaheb Thackeray took the moral responsibility saying if it is done by Sainiks he is proud. Sena’s credentials on Ram temple cannot be questioned. Besides that, the BJP seems to be afraid of the alleged financial irregularities in the land deal. They shouldn’t be afraid if questions are raised. The Sena still claims it believes in Hindutva; while their concept of Hindtuva is cultural, BJP’s remains political, so these ideological clashes could continue,” said Jondhale, former professor of political science at University of Mumbai.