Rifts between the Shiv Sena and BJP have widened in Maharashtra, after the latter swept to victory in the Mira-Bhayandar Municipal Corporation (MBMC) on Monday. The Sena has hit out against its one-time ally and ideological partner, saying BJP won the MBMC polls only because of "money and monk", in a clear reference to Jain monk Naypadmasagari Maharaj who made a controversial speech last week urging voters to cast their votes in BJP's favour.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut slammed Maharaj for these comments, and said he is a "poison on the society". Raut also compared him with controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik. Furthermore, the party has filed a petition with the state election commission in this regard, since Maharaj's speech was in violation of the Election Commission's code of conduct.
However, in doing so, the party seems to have forgotten that the same Jain preacher had once openly backed the Sena too.
As proven by a video that emerged on YouTube, party leaders happily shared the dais with Maharaj back in 2014, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
Seen in the video is Anil Desai, Sena's Rajya Sabha MP, and Maharaj is openly heard exorting people at the gathering to vote for the Sena.
When reminded of this video's existence, Desai tried to play down the connections between the two incidents. "The two incidents are completely different. The 2014 incident took place in a small community hall and wasn't part of election campaigning. It also took place outside the code of conduct, so we couldn't be held guilty of violating any norms,"the Rajya Sabha MP from Maharashtra said.
In Monday's election, BJP won 61 seats in the 95-seat MBMC, while Shiv Sena came second with just 22 seats. The NCP, Raj Thackeray's MNS and Hitendra Thakur's Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi weren't able to win a single seat in Mira-Bhayandar.
Two days before polling took place, Maharaj, flanked by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, attended an event in the city. At the event, he gave a speech saying the BJP is the only party which will take care of the Jain community's interests and uphold values like vegetarianism. The Sena has said this was also in violation of the Supreme Court ruling that barred parties from canvassing for votes on the basis of religion.
Raut also denied claims that the Sena is against the Jain community, saying the party respects the religion and Jain leaders. On several previous occasions, he said, party president Uddhav Thackeray has met monks and community leaders, and visited Jain temples, without actually doing it to attract votes. "But, doing this for electoral gains is dangerous in a state like Maharashtra," Raut added.
Mira-Bhayandar has a significant proportion of Jains, numbering almost 40 percent. Maharaj's comments, wherein he said BJP will uphold vegetarianism in the twin-suburb, will polarise the region, Sena said. "It poses dangers to the law and order situation as well. People campaigning for vegetarianism in Mira Road-Bhayandar today will demand the country's jawans on the borders should also turn vegetarians tomorrow," Raut added.
The Sena's comments against Maharaj found support from an unlikely source: Congress. Sanjay Nirupam, Mumbai Regional Congress Committee president, said everybody now knows the BJP's victory mantra. "I appeal to all Jain monks to do their religious work in peace, without indulging in politics. It's not your cup of tea," Nirupam said.
However, BJP MP Kirit Somaiya dismissed these allegations and said the Sena is being left insecure because of the heavy defeat they suffered. "Shiv Sena has taken the defeat in MBMC to heart and is unable to digest it. People of the country as well as those from Maharashtra are firmly behind Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis," Somaiya said.
Updated Date: Aug 23, 2017 18:43:28 IST