Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday tendered an unconditional apology after a cartoon in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana provoked a strong reaction from a section of Maratha community, which even led to an attack on the newspaper's office.
Addressing a press meet at Shiv Sena Bhavan, the party president said, "Our intention was never to hurt or offend anyone through that cartoon. However, as the party president and editor of the newspaper, I tender an unconditional apology to the people of Maharashtra."
"Many have tried to hatch controversies since the cartoon was published last week, however, I am glad to see that the people of Maharashtra didn't give into this or didn't say anything against the party," he said.
I apologise for the cartoon (on Maratha rallies) made in Saamana paper: Uddhav Thackeray pic.twitter.com/svkPawujxP
— ANI (@ANI_news) October 1, 2016
When asked why there was a six-day delay in tendering an apology as the issue wouldn't have escalated this far, Thackeray said, "We didn't escalate this issue. This issue was hyped by the conspirators. I will reveal who all are behind this ploy at the right time."
"As far as resolving the reservation issue concerned, I have requested CM Devendra Fadnavis to hold a special session and he has agreed for the discussion," the party chief added.
On Friday, the party delegation led by Uddhav Thackeray met Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to demand a special session of the state Legislature to discuss reservation for Maratha community and amendments to the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
"I have requested the CM to set a particular time frame so that the issue is resolved sooner. It is after many years that the Maratha community has come together for a cause now this is why the conspirators are trying to disintegrate us. We will consistently follow up on the matter," Thackeray said.
However, Sanjay Raut, executive editor of Saamana, has not yet apologised and is currently in Goa prepping for the state's upcoming assembly elections.
Raut had, however, on Wednesday said that there was no reason for him to tender an apology. Backing cartoonist Shrinivas Prabhudesai as "non-political and innocent", Raut said that Prabhudesai had already tendered an apology for the cartoon.
Raut, a Rajya Sabha member, also denied media reports about Sena legislators from the Maratha community handing over resignation to the party leadership over the issue.
"The cartoon has not caused any kind of dent or electoral damage to the party. We are neither hurt nor have we suffered any loss. The Sena does not believe in caste and I do not see any reason for tendering an apology," he said.
"The Sena has seen many storms in its fifty years of existence and weathered them, we shall come out of this also," he said, reiterating the party's support for the silent marches of the Maratha community for demands such as reservation.
Without naming Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar and others who have lashed out at Sena over the controversial cartoon, Raut had said, "Those who envy us and want to play politics are speaking against us."
Opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party leaders were pulling the strings from behind the scenes, he alleged.
Last Sunday, a cartoon on "silent march" was published in Saamana, which drew criticism from various political quarters.
Incidentally, three youths on Tuesday arrived in a vehicle at the Saamana printing press building located in Sanpada in Navi Mumbai, and allegedly pelted it with stones and fled. Shiv Sena's office in Navi Mumbai was also attacked by the workers of Sambhaji Brigade, a Maratha outfit.
Advocate Vishnu Navale filed a case against the Shiv Sena chief and editor of Saamana Uddhav Thackeray, executive editor Sanjay Raut, cartoonist Ravindra Prabhudesai and printer and publisher Rajendra Bhagwat at the Nanal peth police station in Marathwada's Parbhani district.
The Marathas have been organising silent marches across the state following the Kopardi rape and murder incident, in which the victim was a member of the community. Some more such rallies are also planned in the state in the coming days.
With inputs from PTI