Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray’s comments on Hindutva have not gone down well with his cousin’s party Shiv Sena. In an indication of a shift of agenda from the “sons of soil” to “Hindutva”, Raj had recently said at a public function that he and his party had unshakeable faith in Hindutva and that the party can prove its strength if need be. The Shiv Sena reacted by slamming the remarks. “We don’t run a shop of agendas. We don’t pick up agendas that can sell, or dump agendas that don’t find resonance among people. For us, Hindutva has been a commitment. We don’t do it for political gains, like the BJP,” Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena leader and executive editor of newspaper Saamana, told The Sunday Guardian.
Media reports had quoted Raj Thackeray as saying that his “idea of Hindutva was not compatible with the Muslims from Behrampada and Bhiwandi, but with the likes of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and Ustad Zakir Hussain, both musicians of international acclaim.”
Soon after the statement, which was made during a college function where Raj was answering students’ questions, speculation was rife in political circles about it. With MNS’ political fortunes dwindling in the recent past, many see this as an attempt to find relevance by harping on the “Hindutva” agenda. It is also being seen as a competition to Shiv Sena, which has been traditionally seen as a supporter of staunch Hindutva.
But Sanjay Raut said there was nothing close to a competition in it. “We don’t feel anything about it (Raj’s comments). See, people know what we stand for. We have carried the mantle of Hindutva as envisaged by Hinduhrudaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray. For us, Hindutva is a commitment, not a political agenda. Unlike BJP, we don’t use it for political gains.” Slamming MNS for its change of stand, he said Shiv Sena does not run a shop or a mall full of convenient issues. “Even when they took up the issue of Marathi maanus, the Marathi maanus stood behind Shiv Sena because people know that we do not change our stand to gain political mileage,” he said. But he added that more and more people needed to talk about it. “Hindutva is something people should talk about. That is needed today. We have been the only party which has invited trouble and stood for its stand despite adversities.”
The MNS has faced losses in the state legislative elections and local corporation elections. Some have even questioned the relevance of the party which was once the kingmaker.