Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray, who is known for his strong stand against the North Indians migrating from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and working in Mumbai, has accepted the invitation for an event being organised by the Uttar Bhartiya Mahapanchayat Sangh, a representative body of North Indians. Ahead of the elections, this move gives the impression of being one of his political tactics to mend ways with the North Indian community.
The Uttar Bhartiya Mahapanchayat Sangh is a forum which claims to work for the welfare of the North Indians living in Mumbai, had in the last month invited Thackeray for its annual meeting that is scheduled to take place on December 2 in suburban Kandivali, Mumbai, and share his views on the North Indian community people working in Mumbai. On Monday, MNS spokesperson Sandeep Deshpande confirmed the acceptance on Twitter. He tweeted, “Rajsaheb has accepted the invitation. He will be present in the December 2 meeting at Kandivali.”
In a conversation with AV, MNS leader and spokesperson Sandeep Deshpande asserted, “The people who are accusing MNS for taking a U-turn for electoral benefits, I wonder and also want to ask them if they already know or have presumed themselves what Raj Thackeray will be addressing on the event! Let December 2 come and all these doubts will get their answers.”
मा.राजसाहेबांनी उत्तर भारतीय मंच ने दिलेले आमंत्रण स्वीकारले असून दिनांक 2 डिसेंबर 2018 रोजी हा कार्यक्रम कांदिवली येथे होणार आहे
— Sandeep Deshpande (@SandeepDadarMNS) November 12, 2018
He further expressed, “The North Indians whose third and fourth generations are staying in Maharashtra and those who have immense love for the Marathi language, we are always by their side. If PM Modi can visit Pakistan to wish former PM Nawaz Sharif on his birthday and former President Pranab Mukherjee can attend RSS event, I wonder why people are making a fuss about MNS attending this event.”
However, this surprising move is believed to have taken place after Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s announcement to visit Ayodhya on November 25. As it is quite known that over a decade ago, Thackeray had shot to infamy for his tirades against the North Indian community and since then, he has kept his anti-North Indian stand consistent. Also, in the past, the MNS, which advocates ‘sons-of-the-soil’ theory, had launched a series of agitations against the North Indians living in the financial capital. Now, in the wake of the upcoming elections, Thackeray advocates his need to expresses his thought on North Indian community migrating to Mumbai.
BJP chief spokesperson Madhav Bhandari chose not to comment saying that these are irrelevant issues while Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande also refrained from commenting on the same.
As an opposition party, Congress played the role of an opportunist as the state president Sanjay Nirupam left no stones unturned to take a dig on Thackeray over his decision to accept the invitation calling it a political gimmick and also demanded an apology saying, “He was the person who asked that North Indians be beaten in Mumbai. Now he is attending the meeting. He should first apologise to the community.” However, the party leaders have also welcomed Thackeray’s decision.
Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Dr. Raju Waghmare said, “Pre-election period changes a lot of equations. With changing time and situation, one’s political views change. Though accepting an invitation doesn’t reveal what MNS chief is going to say in the particular event, but if the change in MNS’s viewpoints is on a positive side, we have to welcome it. If there is a voluntary change in someone, there’s no point taking that thing negatively.”
Many eyebrows have been raised on Raj Thackeray’s step to meet the North Indian community. Nonetheless, December 2 meeting has now created a curiosity among various political parties considering the revelation of the bona fide agenda behind this move by the MNS chief.
BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar stated, “I don’t think that MNS is supporting the North Indians but on the eve of the election, MNS might have accepted the invitation. We will prefer to wait for his speech. Let’s see what he addresses in the event first before saying anything further on his issue.”