In an open letter addressed to the cricket icon in Mondays edition of the Sena mouthpiece Saamna (given alongside), Thackeray slammed Tendulkar for saying that Mumbai could not be monopolised and that all Indians had an equal right over it. Criticising Tendulkar for hurting Marathi sentiments, Thackeray advised him to stick to cricket and not venture into politics.
Thackerays comments came at a time when the Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena led by his estranged nephew Raj Thackeray are engaged in a game of one-upmanship to woo Maharashtrians. The Sena has been under pressure to hold on to its Marathi base and has been struggling to keep its flock together following the rise of the MNS and Narayan Rane breaking away to join the Congress.
While Thackerays criticism of Tendulkar seemed to be aimed at cornering the MNS, it backfired on the party as it invited condemnation from across the country. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said, Sachin Tendulkar is from Maharashtra, but he plays for India. We are Indians first... Sachins remarks will unite the country and send across a good message .
RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav also slammed Thackeray: Sachin Tendulkar is a national hero and Thackeray has no moral authority to comment on him, he said.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar praised Tendulkar for his remarks and said, His remarks have lifted the prestige of the country. He is revered as a great cricketer, now he will be respected as a good human being, a good citizen.
Even Sena ally, BJP, distanced itself from Thackeray on this issue, saying nobody could object to Tendulkars stand. Sachin is fully correct. I dont think anybody can have an objection to it. India is proud of him and he is proud of being an Indian, said Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha.
Union minority affairs minister and Congressman Salman Khurshid, taking a swipe at the Shiv Sena leader, said Tendulkar had clean bowled Thackeray.
Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said, Thackerays reaction to Tendulkars assertion of his Indianness was uncalled for, unwarranted and deserves to be condemned in the strongest possible manner... It is an assault on the very idea of India. They cant understand a simple thing that there is no contradiction between a proud Indian and a proud Marathi or a proud Punjabi or anybody from any region.
BCCI member Rajiv Shukla said: This is the same language that Mohammed Ali Jinnah spoke. The whole of India and all Maharashtrians, excluding a few Shiv Sena leaders and leaders of Raj Thackerays party, are with Tendulkar.
CPI general secretary A B Bardhan said: I agree with Sachin one hundred per cent. I think Thackeray is going beyond his limit.