Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray on Friday dared the rebel party MLAs including Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to seek a fresh mandate, and said he too was ready to resign and contest an election afresh.
Speaking at the same event earlier, chief minister Shinde said Uddhav Thackeray should introspect as to why 40 of the Sena’s 55 MLAs quit rather than calling them names.
“I reiterate my demand that the 40 rebel MLAs should resign and seek fresh mandate. I will also resign from my seat and seek re-election. Let people decide," Aaditya Thackeray said at the India Today conclave here.
“If I were the deputy chief minister (Devendra Fadnavis), I would have walked out of this government and called for fresh elections," he added.
His party believed in the ideals of the Constitution, the rule of law and justice, he said.
“If two-thirds of the legislative party revolts and the rebellion is legitimised, there would be unrest in the country," he said, referring to the revolt by Shinde and others which brought down the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government in June this year.
Aaditya also criticised the state government for `delaying’ civic polls including the elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
"In the last 25 years, we have turned a civic body (BMC) with deficit into one with a surplus of Rs 80,000 crore and each penny is accounted for," he said.
To a question about who should be blamed for the Shinde group’s revolt, Thackeray said, “I and my father (Uddhav Thackeray) take the blame for the blind trust in the people who we thought were our own. We did not play dirty politics." The Shinde faction petitioned the ECI seeking the `bow and arrow’ symbol only with the intention of damaging the Shiv Sena, he said, adding that if justice prevailed, his party would get the symbol back.
Asked about claims that Uddhav Thackeray had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year to discuss possible rapprochement with the BJP, he said then deputy CM Ajit Pawar and minister Ashok Chavan had accompanied his father to Delhi.
“Is it necessary to give political colour to normal meetings between a chief minister and prime minister just because a traitor says so," Thackeray added.
To a question about the criticism that someone like him who speaks about climate change, urban planning and the environment was not suited to lead a party known for politics of aggression and intimidation, Aaditya said one can not be rigid, one has to be ready to adapt and open to ideas.
“My grandfather (Bal Thackeray) raised the issue of sons of the soil and Hindutva because these issues were prevailing during that period, while my father focussed on developmental issues prevailing during the time," he said.
Earlier, chief minister Shinde said during the event that Uddhav Thackeray had nothing new to say except calling him and the MLAs of his faction “traitors".
“One can bribe two or three people, not 50 people," he said to the allegation by the Thackeray group that rebel MLAs received money to switch their loyalties.
“Instead of introspecting on what went wrong, he (Uddhav Thackeray) has been levelling accusations against us. For me, ideology is important, not the chief minister’s post. Our MLAs were angry, people wanted Shiv Sena to get out of the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance. We stood for the Sena-BJP alliance for which people had voted," Shinde stated.
His was a pro-people and pro-development government, he said, adding, “I believe `CM’ does not mean chief minister, it means `common man’." People were happy as all the coronavirus-related restrictions have been removed and they can celebrate festivals freely, Shinde said.
Asked if Uddhav Thackeray had told him about any assurance given by Amit Shah about the BJP being ready to share the chief minister’s post with the Sena after the 2019 elections, Shinde said Thackeray did tell him about this.
“But no one else was present there (during the meeting between Thackeray and Shah)," he added.
He later asked prime minister Modi and Shah about this meeting and was told that the BJP always honours its commitments, Shinde further said.
“Nitish Kumar was made chief minister even though BJP had more MLAs in Bihar. I had 50 MLAs with me and BJP 106, still I was made chief minister," he added.
His rebellion was only for preserving Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s ideology and not for any post, the chief minister said.
“Balasaheb spoke about abolishing Article 370 and constructing the Ram temple (at Ayodhya). Who is doing these things?" he asked.
Shinde, however, evaded a direct reply to questions on whether he would be the face of the present alliance with the BJP in the 2024 Assembly elections.
“Even now I had no ambition to become CM. Whatever we did was in the interest of the state and country. People will decide," he said.
Asked about his equation with deputy CM Fadnavis, Shinde said the two of them have “good tuning".
“He has been chief minister earlier and his experience matters," Shinde said.
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