Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray went all guns blazing against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in his speech at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park on Sunday. Addressing a mammoth gathering of party workers and supporters on the occasion of Gudi Padwa, Thackeray joined the clamor for opposition unity and said all opposition parties must unite for a “Modi-Mukt Bharat”.
Thackeray’s blistering attack on the BJP comes a day after his meeting with NCP chief Sharad Pawar, a development that had raised eyebrows within political circles. While Thackeray played down the meeting, his speech which was laden with attacks aimed at Modi and the BJP, make it significant in the context of the party’s own standing in Maharashtra as well as the political powerplay on the national level.
Here are 10 key takeaways from Raj Thackeray’s speech on Sunday:
1. ‘Modi-Mukt Bharat’
Calling for a third wave of independence for India, Raj Thackeray said that the opposition parties must unite to oust the BJP government at the Centre. The MNS chief said 2019 can bring “a third independence if India becomes Modi-mukt”. He said India got its first independence in 1947 while he termed the post-Emergency election second in 1977 as India’s second.
2. Sri Devi’s funeral a ‘diversionary tactic’
Carrying on with his attack against the BJP-ruled Centre, Thackeray termed the extensive media coverage to Sri Devi’s death and her funeral a bid to distract the nation’s attention from the multi-crore scam involving Punjab National Bank and billionaire diamantaire Nirav Modi. Thackeray said that Sri Devi’s death came at a time when Nirav Modi was talk of the town and the extensive focus of the media to the Bollywood icon’s death and her funeral was a bid to “change the issue”. Thackeray also questioned why Sridevi was accorded a funeral, wrapped in the Tricolor.
3. ‘Riots’ over Ram Mandir
Warning of communal divisions on the Ram Mandir issue, Thackeray alleged that the issue was likely to be discussed deliberately to allegedly “instigate riots”. While he maintained that he was in favour of Ram Mandir being built in Ayodhya, he contested the BJP’s alleged plans to use the issue as an election plank in a bid to divide society on the basis of religion.
4. ‘CM busy singing songs’
The MNS chief also lashed out at Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis over his recent appearance in a music video aimed at generating awareness on conservation of rivers. Thackeray said that the CM was busy “singing songs” despite several problems plaguing the state. He also questioned the CM’s claims on the digging of 56,000 wells in the state.
5. ‘Films like ‘Padman’, ‘Toilet:Ek Prem Katha’ part of covert propaganda’
Recent films based on social issues like ‘Padman’ and ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha’ also came under sharp attack of the firebrand MNS leader. Thackeray dubbed these films as part of a “covert propaganda” on part of the government to promote its schemes. Akshay Kumar, who starred in both these films, also drew Thackeray’s ire. He said the actor was trying to follow into the footsteps of Manoj Kumar who came to be popularly known as ‘Bharat Kumar’.
6. ‘Demonetisation biggest scam since 1947’
Thackeray also took potshots at PM Modi’s decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes. The MNS chief said that notes ban would emerge as the biggest scam in post-Independent India if it were to be investigated. If the Modi government is ousted and an inquiry ordered, demonetisation may turn out to be the biggest scam in the country since 1947, he said.
7. Modi’s foreign tours
The MNS chief also took a dig at the Prime Minister’s frequent foreign visits. In a jibe at the the jobs scenario in India and one of PM’s defences on employment, Thackeray wondered if the PM was visiting those countries to get “flour for pakoda”. These visits, Thackeray said, had failed to bring in any investments
8. Modi following Hitler’s footsteps
Thackeray further said that the Prime Minister was following into the foosteps of Adolf Hitler and that actions by his government to allegedly muzzle the media and judiciary were straight out of the dictator’s books. “If you study the techniques being used by this government, you will see that all these techniques have been written in Adolf Hitler’s books,” Thackeray said.
9. Opposition unity
Thackeray said that when the MNS joined ranks with Narendra Modi at the Centre, the slogan was “Congress-mukt Bharat”. However, the way the government has worked in the past four years or so necessitated a rethink, the MNS chief said. The leader said that parties needed to unite to oust the Modi government from power.
10. Bullet train a bid to divide Maharashtra
Targeting the ambitious Bullet Train project that is set to connect Mumbai and Ahmedabad, Thackeray said that the project was aimed at alienating Mumbai from Maharashtra.