Saffron camp split over `Mumbai for Marathis’

New Delhi, Feb 1 (Calcutta Tube) The split between the Shiv Sena and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) over `Mumbai for Marathis’ widened Monday, with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Murli Manohar Joshi and Shanta Kumar coming out in support of the RSS.

Determined to guard its turf in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena made it clear that it would not compromise on the issue of ‘Mumbai for Marathis’ but clarified that it did not have anything against the BJP, its ally in the state.

A day after former Lok Sabha speaker Manohar Joshi reiterated the Shiv Sena’s policy, the party’s 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.

Thackeray’s anger was sparked by 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.

Ram 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 war of words has strained relations between the Shiv Sena and the BJP, whose national president, Nitin Gadkari, is from Maharashtra and who reacted cautiously Sunday to the RSS chief’s statement.

Gadkari said he would talk to the RSS chief and then react.

But BJP leaders from northern India went on the offensive Monday against the Shiv Sena.

BJP vice president Shanta Kumar, a former Himachal Pradesh chief minister, said: ‘Whatever the RSS has said is correct.’

He asserted that citizens of the country had the same rights across India and that all political parties should respect the basic tenets of the constitution.

Former BJP president Murli Maohar Joshi said the `Mumbai for Marathis’ stand was unconstitutional.

‘This is divisive and the worst example of vote bank politics. No sensible person will ever support such a statement,’ Joshi said.

The Shiv Sena has also come out strongly against cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and industrialist Mukesh Ambani after they declared publicly that Mumbai belonged to all Indians.

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