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‘Where is Maharashtra dharma?’ Raj Thackeray’s silence in the Kangana queue sparks resentment in the MNS

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Raj Thackeray
Photo of MNS chief Raj Thackeray ThePrint photo by Suraj Singh Bisht

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Mumbai: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray has issued gag orders, not allowing his party leaders to talk about the Kangana Ranaut-Shiv Sena controversy, causing discontent in regional outfits.

The silence of Raj, a self-appointed guardian of Marathi pride, at a time when Ranauts tweets have hit Mumbai, Maharashtra and Mumbai Police hard, has shocked his party colleagues.

Disappointed with their boss’s stance, some MNS activists have sent fraudsters to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) seeking to move on.

In a series of tweets, Ranaut had compared Mumbai to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). She had also said she feared Mumbai Police more than the film mafia and had reprimanded Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh for consenting to a tweet criticizing her.

The only apparent response from the MNS was party leader Ameya Khopkar, secretly alluding to her in a tweet on September 4th. Khopkar, the president of the MNS cinema wing, had posted on Twitter in support of Mumbai Police without mentioning Ranaut.

Anyone who has a problem with the police can live in their respective states. You can call this a threat or a warning, but no real Mumbaikar will tolerate anything about Mumbai Police, he wrote on Twitter in Marathi.

MNS sources told ThePrint that Raj had reprimanded Khopkar for the Twitter post. But the attitude of the bosses has started to hurt his party.

On September 8, when the Kangana government quarrel against Maharashtra had reached its climax, Omkar Hari Mali, the district coordinator of the MNS Cultural Cell dealing with Thane, Raigad and Palghar, joined the NCP. The others are confused too.

If Raj Saheb can not defend Marat Asmita (pride) when being abused by a migrant actor, it makes no sense to support him, said a senior MNS leader.

All these years we stayed with Raj Saheb for he stood for the Marathi people. Today, after a migrant abuses Mumbai Police and says Mumbai is Pakistan, she still lives in Mumbai. Her Y safety is an insult to Marat Asmita.


Read also:Dev Anand for Kangana Ranaut Shiv Sena has had a long love-hate relationship with Bollywood


Political obligations after silence

Speaking to ThePrint, MIT political analyst Parimal Maya Sudhakar of the MIT School of Government thinks Raj Thackeray had missed out on the biggest opportunity to make money on unfavorable statements from Ranaut.

Shiv Sena was on defense in the Sushant Singh Rajput case. The MNS could have taken Kangana and created a political space. But since he (Raj) is seeking BJP support as an equal partner in Mumbai and a small partner across the Maharashtra, he is silent, Sudhakar said.

Raj Thackeray is seeking electoral gains through Hindutva like Marate and Marati Pride mano issues have failed to bring profits to him.

Raj Thackerays silence is closely linked to the maneuvers following the November 2019 Assembly poll, when NCP chief Sharad Pawar was joining the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition in Maharashtra.

The MNS chief was keen to lend support to this alliance; he had wanted to ally with Congress and the NCP even before the Maharashtra Assembly polls on October 21, 2019.

Despite Congress parties approving of his unofficial bid, Raj Thackeray had campaigned against the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in Maharashtra. He had criticized the anti-Maharashtra policies of the saffron alliance and urged people to vote for it so that his party could emerge as a strong opposition.

He was very disappointed when the MVA did not consider his support as Congress had opposed any alliance with the MNS. His anti-migrant stance, which had seen violent attacks on migrants from North India, was the basis of opposition from the Congress party.

Kthesa Hindutva

Facing political isolation, especially as his cousin Uddhav Thackeray, who is also Shiv Sena chief, took over as prime minister in November 2019, Raj turned to BJP and Hindutva.

On January 23, 2020 the birthday of his uncle and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, MNS chief unveiled a new party flag. The saffron-colored flag bore the image of the royal seal used during the time of the warring king Maratha Chhatrpati Shivaji Maharaj. He signaled the change of ideology for the MNS.

The previous flag, which was unveiled on March 6, 2006, the day the MNS was founded, had the colors blue, orange, white and green. On the day he founded the MNS, Raj Thackeray had told the crowd gathered in Shivaji Park that the colors of his flag signaled a comprehensive policy with Dalits and Muslims who were an integral part of the MNS policy.

Now while he publicly denies that he has turned to the Right, there is little doubt that his policy has changed.

I’m not heading towards Hindutva. Maharashtra dharma is my only dharma, Raj said at a mammoth gathering in Azad Maidan on August 21, 2020. He had also greeted Mumbai Police personnel who were on duty at his protest meeting.

Party leaders are now telling about it. Raj Saheb had called them on stage and handed them red roses telling them that not the one attacking Mumbai Police and Maharashtra Police will be spared. What happened to that Maharashtra dhama? said an MNS leader, speaking on condition of anonymity for ThePrint.

Shiv Sena’s spokesman and party MP Sanjay Raut, through his weekly column, Rokhtok, to the party spokesman, Saamana, has prompted Raj Thackeray to step forward and take a stand on the ongoing controversy.

Pawar and Thackeray are two powerful brands of Marathi pride. Even if you have problems with Shiv Sena, the Thackeray brand should command and control, Raut wrote in his column.

Speaking to ThePrint, MNS spokesman Sandeep Deshpande declined to comment on the matter. I would not like to comment on this issue. Raj Saheb will tell us the future course of action of the party, Deshpande said.


Read also:14 reasons why BMC got a bulldozer at the Kangana Ranauts office in Mumbai


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