Editor Girish Kuber’s virtual interview ‘Drishti ani Kon’ organized by Loksatta, has not gone well with the state BJP leaders. On 1st June, Raj Thackeray, the President of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena appeared in an interview and made many sensational statements on state politics.
When asked about switching the loyalties by his party workers Raj in the interview said, “In the face of every election, many leaders are seen moving to another party. Let me tell you the story of the 2009 Assembly elections. BJP’s Atul Bhatkhalkar had come to me to ask for a ticket for the Assembly election. There was another leader Lokhande who had also come to me for a ticket. I had called Nitin Gadkari to inform about the unrest within his party leaders.” Raj further said, “I told both of them, ‘stay where you are, this is the oldest political party and you have grown with it, don’t be crazy just because you are angry'”.
“This is how it happens. Even in the early days of Shiv Sena, many people left. When they leave, they are alone,” said Thackeray.
Avadhut Wagh, Media Panelist of Maharashtra BJP told Afternoon Voice, “I was the state vice president of MNS during that time. Raj Saheb told me that since BJP denied Atul Bhatkhalkar’s ticket, he offered him the same from MNS, which Atul refused.”
When asked Atul Bhatkhalkar, he said, “Whatever Raj Thackeray said about me is a brutal lie. In 2009, BJP did not give me a ticket, but later on BJP leader Late Gopinath Munde publicly regretted the same by stating that it was a wrong decision by BJP. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena had offered me a ticket but I refused it.”
“Sadly, MNS was not getting a suitable candidate in those days, you can check 2009’s Kandivali east candidate list of MNS, in the first two lists, there was no mention of Kandivali east. I can never leave BJP or even remotely think of leaving the party,” Bhatkhalkar further added.
BJP’s Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar, MLA from Nilanga constituency said, “Girish Kuber authored a book called ‘Renaissance State, The Unwritten Story of the Making of Maharashtra’, in this book he has twisted the history by making insulting statements on Sambhaji Raje. MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar, not only criticized Kuber but also protested against the book. Keeping this in mind, Bhatkhalkar was strategically dragged for 2009’s so-called incident in Raj Thackeray’s interview now in 2021. The vendetta is quite visible, though we all can read Girish Kuber and see how anti-Modi he is. He is a hardcore leftist but somehow inclined towards Uddhav Thackeray for his safe landing in politics as an MP.”
Madhav Bhandari, Vice President of BJP Maharashtra said, “The way Girish Kuber is heading the Editorial department of Loksatta and his writings in recent times is absolutely not suited to the journalistic standards. He is doing agenda-driven reporting by frequently attacking BJP and its leaders, this is nothing but due to political inclination. His biased journalism is one-sided and all that he is doing is for his own political aspirations.”
Bhandari further said, “Atul Bhatkhalkar is among the senior leaders of BJP, his work within the assembly and in his constituency is known to the people, so there was no reason for Kuber to bring up an incident that had happened in 2009 again in 2021.”
While speaking on the controversy Senior Journalist Anil Thatte said, “Girish Kuber is Uddhav Thackeray’s man, there is no doubt in it. He and Uddhav have a mutual tie-up. Meanwhile, he has already been confirmed as an MP from Shiv Sena though there is still a year for the elections till then he has to serve Uddhav. In the past Congress took advantage of Kumar Ketkar the editor of Loksatta and before making him a Member of Parliament for ten years he had to mortgage his journalism with Congress. He had to serve Indira Gandhi to Sonia Gandhi for decades. There is another example of Madhukar Bhave of Loksatta, he was also enslaved by Congress for fifteen years with the carrot stick of MLC, he used to give speeches for Congress and finally died without becoming a Member of the Legislative Council. Entrapping the journalists and editors for their political ambitions by political parties is a very old practice. It is like, you scratch my back and I will scratch yours, ironically the journalism takes a backseat and only agenda-driven slavery of writing remains.”
Thatte further said, “In this particular interview I don’t think Girish has plotted anything, because Raj Thackeray is a very unpredictable speaker, he speaks whatever comes to his mind and this could be a coincidence. In search of political opportunities, calling different politicians and asking for a ticket is not surprising.”
While posing the question Thatte asked, “Tell me where is Krupa Shankar Singh now? In BJP or Congress? He is sitting on the fence. Whoever gives him a better deal will jump that side. Raj Thackeray is assumed to be close to Sharad Pawar because in the last assembly elections he tirelessly attacked BJP and Narendra Modi, but right now he is working parallelly with BJP. In politics no one is a friend or foe, everything is situational. He will be in alliance with BJP in the upcoming Municipal elections. I am sure even Girish Kuber might not have expected this answer from Raj Thackeray, the statement on Bhatkhalkar might be even a surprise to him.”
Thatte also added, “These days journalism and politics that has emerged with a very peculiar combination. For example, Girish Kuber, criticizes Shiv Sena but always hails Uddhav, there are many journalists who condemn BJP but they maintain loyalties to Modi, likewise people praise Congress but they don’t support Sonia Gandhi in particular.
Vinayak Dinkar Mohidekar, who speaks volumes about Shivaji Raje and his clan in community preaching said, “‘Renaissance State’, a book by a senior journalist, which tracks the state’s history from the times of the Satavahanas. He made all unproven claims about Chhatrapati Sambhaji, warrior king and son of Chhatrapati Shivaji. For example, he has written that Chhatrapati Sambhaji killed queen Soyarabai Bhosale, one of the wives of Chhatrapati Shivaji. She was Sambhaji’s stepmother. However, according to many, this claim finds no mention in historical documents. This kind of journalism and writing is dangerous and good to see the politicians condemning such substandard writings.”
The point to note here is MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar is still with BJP and stuck to his grounds, but the so-called Sadashiv Lokhande the then BJP MLA, whom Raj Thackeray had asked to remain in BJP in 2009, had contested on the ticket of MNS from the Kurla constituency, with 33,967 votes.