Uddhav Thackeray’s hard talk pushes Opposition rethink on Savarkar

The Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena skipped a get-together of Opposition parties called by Mallikarjun Kharge on Monday evening.

Congress, Shiv Sena slam BJP over Ram Nanami violence
Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray

Congress and other Opposition parties are learnt to have agreed to tone down the rhetoric on sensitive issues including VD Savarkar. The move comes after Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray on Monday took strong exception to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s “not Savarkar” reference while refusing to give in to the BJP’s demands of an apology over his remarks.

Uddhav’s Sena made its displeasure known earlier on Monday when Thackeray advised Gandhi to refrain from “insulting” Savarkar whom he idolised. The displeasure was made evident when Sena skipped a key strategy meet hosted by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge at his New Delhi residence on Monday evening. The meeting was attended by leaders of at least 17 Opposition parties.

Also Read: ‘Won’t tolerate insult’: Uddhav Sena’s warning to Rahul Gandhi over ‘Savarkar’ remarks

According to people in the know, the stand reflects a larger understanding within the Congress of being accommodative and sensitive to the concerns of like-minded parties. Opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress, have rallied behind the Congress in its fight against the Centre following Rahul Gandhi’s disqualification as a Lok Sabha MP.

Among parties whose representatives were present during the meeting were Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, the DMK, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi, RS, CPM, CPI,  MDMK, KC, TMC, RSP, RJD, J&K NC, IUML, VCK, SP, and JMM, among others.

Most of these parties were also part of a key meeting chaired by the Congress president at his chambers in Parliament Monday morning. The parties also participated in a protest march, wearing black attire, demanding that the Centre constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the allegations levelled against industrialist Gautam Adani.

While the coming together of all Opposition parties signalled the unity that has so far eluded the anti-BJP camp, the objections raised by Thackeray to Gandhi’s Savarkar remarks threatened to ruin this rare occurrence. Congress is in alliance with Sharad Pawar’s NCP and the Shiv Sena (UBT) despite being ousted from power after a rebellion in ranks by the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena.

Also Read: On Shiv Sena row, Uddhav Thackeray warns of ‘anarchy after 2024’

Reminding Gandhi that the Shiv Sena and Congress are in alliance to save the constitution and democracy, Thackeray warned the Congress leader not to make remarks that could “create fissures” in the alliance. Thackeray’s warning shot came as he attempts to strike a balance between Hindutva, the party’s core ideological agenda that his detractors accuse of slipping away, and the interests of the anti-Modi Opposition.

Rahul Gandhi’s remarks against Savarkar have put Congress in the crosshairs with the Shiv Sena earlier as well. Responding to a question on Saturday on whether he will apologise for his remarks on the “Modi surname” following his disqualification, Rahul Gandhi said: “My name is not Savarkar. I am a Gandhi. I won’t apologise.”  

Responding to Gandhi’s remarks, Uddhav shot back, saying: “Savarkar is our idol. We hold Savarkar in the highest esteem. His courage and sacrifice and role in the freedom struggle cannot be undermined. We will not tolerate Savarkar’s insult.”

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First published on: 28-03-2023 at 14:36 IST