Shiv Sena has further strained its ties with the BJP-led government in Maharashtra over the ink attack on former BJP member Sudheendra Kulkarni. Shiv Sena has decided to fight the upcoming Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation election alone and not tie up with the BJP in the November 1 polls.
Sena is set to contest all 122 seats alone in the civic polls. Both Kalyan and Dombivali are satellite cities adjacent to Mumbai whose municipal corporation is currently being run by the Sena-BJP alliance.
Maharashtra BJP President Raosaheb Danve told PTI that the party had left the critical decision of the tie-up with the local BJP unit in Kalyan.
“We are not going to impose anything on the local unit,” Danve said.
Sena’s decision to go alone in the polls was taken late on Monday night, after a meeting of senior party leaders.
The decision came after a severe dressing down from the BJP government in the state. On Monday evening, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis strongly criticised Shiv Sena for its attack on BJP advisor and Observer Research Foundation (ORF) head Sudheendra Kulkarni. Kulkarni was smeared with black ink on Monday morning by Shiv Sainiks outside his house. The attack was carried out because Kulkarni was the organiser of the book-launch event of former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.
Sena had threatened Kulkarni not to go ahead with the launch of Kasuri’s book but Kulkarni refused to bow to their threat. The book “Neither a Hawk, Nor a Dove: An Insider Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy”, was finally launched on Monday evening amid tight security provided by Maharashtra government.
The CM lashed out at his ally Sena by saying the party had “shamed” the state.
“We cannot endorse Mr Kasuri, but can’t let our state turn into banana republic. The rule of law has prevailed. I think the way things have happened has brought a bad name to our state. There could have been better ways to put forth a point of view,” the CM said.
“We may not agree with views of somebody, but when a foreign dignitary or a diplomat arrives on a valid visa and holds a programme, which is not illegal, it’s the duty of a state to provide protection,” Fadnavis added.
Meanwhile, Sena has justified its attack on Kulkarni in its mouthpiece Saamana which said, “…being patriotic and securing our country is Maharashtra’s work and we are doing our work.”
The party paper went on to liken Kulkarni to 26/11 attacker Kasab.
“The real threat to the sovereignty of our nation is not due to extremists or terrorists, but people like Kulkarni. People like him are out to cut the neck of our nation…When there are people like him present here, Pakistan does not need to send people like Kasab for terrorist activities,” it said.
Kulkarni reacted to Sena’a accusation in a press conference in Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon.
“I have been labelled a Pakistani agent in Sena mouthpiece ‘Saamana’. I respect their freedom of expression. They should also respect others’ freedom of expression,” said Kulkarni.
The Sena believes that India should not engage with Pakistan in any form as long as it supports terror attacks on Indian soil. It is on the basis of the same reason that it was successful in calling off legendary Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai and Pune.
Meanwhile, six Shiv Sena workers have been held for smearing black ink on Kulkarni. The arrest came hours after police registered an FIR against unidentified persons for blackening his face.
The attack was condemned by eminent members of the civil society and also veteran politicians.
Actor Naseeruddin Shah, who was present at the book launch event on Monday said that Kulkarni displayed “fortitude” in going ahead with the event.
Senior BJP leader LK Advani too lashed out at Sena for attacking his aide Kulkarni.
“I strongly condemn whosoever has done it…. In the last few days, there are these signs…where any person or any point of view is not acceptable, then you resort to violence or turn intolerant towards them….This is a matter of concern for the nation. Democracy must ensure tolerance for a different point of view,” Advani said.
(With inputs from PTI)