After many years, the opposition in India has got a face in Narendra Modi and this has created a storm in national politics, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said in Mumbai on Sunday.
“Until now, barring (former prime minister) Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Indian opposition parties lacked an acceptable ‘face’ before fighting elections. This time, people have a choice, a strong party and a good face in the form of Modi. The National Democratic Alliance has no cause for worry,” Thackeray said in an interview to party mouthpiece Saamana.
Thackeray’s comments may be a signal that after the recent strain, all is now well between the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
On the other hand, the ruling Congress is in a shambles, he said.
“Earlier, right from Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, the Congress had a ‘face’. This time, they are not willing to bring forward Rahul Gandhi, or Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra. They don’t have a face, but the opposition parties are united under Modi and confidently marching ahead,” the Shiv Sena chief said.
“Will this not lead to a repeat of the ‘India Shining’ campaign (of 2004)?” asked the interviewer, Sanjay Raut, also Saamana’s executive editor and Rajya Sabha member.
“Forget it, India will shine in a real sense under Modi. Earlier, ‘India Shining’ and ‘Feel Good’ were propounded by the NDA. But this was ridiculed by the opponents. Look now, what is the state of the poor? If that was not ‘India Shining’ and there was no ‘Feel Good’ factor at that time, then what do you feel now?” Thackeray countered.
He said when he had travelled abroad a couple of times during that time, Indians used to get great respect and tourists and investors were willing to come to the country.
“But now, the image is that India is steeped in corruption. Being famous is good, but now we are ‘infamous’ among foreign investors who are backing off from India. In fact, many of our own industrialists are packing their bags and moving out of India due to the maladministration here,” Thackeray said.
The Shiv Sena leader also spoke about the recent defections in the party.
He dismissed them as of little significance and said they were of little consequence to the party founded, built and nurtured by the late Bal Thackeray who died in November 2012.
Uddhav said there were questions: “After Bal Thackeray, what? Even now, there are similar questions, so what?”
To a query that ahead of the elections there were a lot of ‘Gayarams’ (defectors) from the Shiv Sena, Thackeray shot back that there was ‘Ram’ in the word ‘Gayaram’.
“But do they have any of the qualities of Lord Ram? How many people have gone with them? And now that they have gone, it’s clear to the public why they went,” he said.
He said there were some who quit but are now desperately remembering the late Bal Thackeray.
“They may have got posts and designations in other parties but the love and loyalty of Bal Thackeray and Shiv Sainiks they could get only from the Shiv Sena,” he said.