New Delhi/Mumbai, Feb 1 (Calcutta Tube) Mumbai for Marathis, or for all Indians? The question drove a deeper wedge in the Sangh Parivar Monday with the BJP backing mentor RSS in saying that nothing should not dilute basic ‘Indianness’ and the Shiv Sena zealously guarding its turf to say that the Mumbai was indeed only for Marathis.
Hoping to maximise on the rift, the Congress was not quiet either. Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the Bharatiya Janata Party should stand by its words and break off its alliance with the Shiv Sena.
‘This hypocrisy is an insult to the intelligence of the people of India. Shiv Sena and BJP have close relations for more than 15 years,’ he said.
And Home Minister P. Chidambaram projected the government’s view when he slammed the Shiv Sena for its exclusionary ‘Mumbai for Marathis’ stand and said such a ‘pernicious’ thesis had to be rejected. The city belonged to all of India, he said.
While the Congress and the central government’s stringent condemnation was nothing new, the Shiv Sena found itself isolated within the Sangh Parivar, the loose conglomeration of Hindu rightwing groups mentored by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
In a categoric rejection of its ally’s stand, BJP president Nitin Gadkari said identities based on language, region or religion should not dilute ‘Indianness’.
‘All citizens of India may be attached to a particular language, region or religion. These identities have never diluted their Indianness. The BJP will never accept the philosophy that there is a conflict between the two,’ Gadkari said in a statement here.
He said the BJP had always recognised linguistic, regional and religious identities as a reality, but the ‘strength of India’s unity in diversity is achieved when all these identities eventually converge into a larger national identity of Indianness. There is and can never be a conflict between these.’
A day after RSS leader Ram Madhav’s unusually candid remarks Sunday when he asked RSS volunteers to try prevent the spread of anti-north India and anti-Hindi feelings in Maharashtra, Gadkari was also backed by other BJP colleagues like Murli Manohar Joshi.
The former BJP president said the Mumbai for Marathis stand was unconstitutional. Lashing out at the Shiv Sena, Joshi said: ‘This is divisive and the worst example of vote bank politics. No sensible person will ever support such a statement.’
Stung by the criticism of its anti-north Indians policy, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray thundered in Mumbai that his party did not need lessons from the RSS.
‘We do not need lessons from the RSS, It will be in their interest not to rake up the issue. Our stand on this is not new. Mumbai belongs to Marathis,’ Thackeray told reporters.
He suggested that instead of criticising the Sena over its stand on the influx of north Indians into Maharashtra, the RSS must focus on the plight of north Indians in Assam or teach Hindi to south Indians.
‘It should come clear whether it is the RSS’ official position or the personal view of Ram Madhav. Ram Madhav is not the sole voice of the RSS,’ he said.
What Thackeray did not say was that Madhav’s remarks followed RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comments a day earlier that Indian citizens had a right to stay and earn their livelihood anywhere in the country.
Mohan Bhagwat, who did not name the Shiv Sena or the breakaway Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), both of which have indulged in competitive politics on the issues of Marathi pride, said: ‘Language, caste, sub-caste, groups, tribes can be different but all are sons of India.’
The latest controversy, raked up by the Maharashtra government’s move to give new taxi permits only to those who know how to read, write and speak Marathi, shows no signs of abating. The rift could get wider still, leaving the Shiv Sena and the BJP-RSS on either side.