Deshbhakt or Modi bhakt? Uddhav asks BJP over Mumbai speech row

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader says he used the word 'deshpremi' because the INDIA bloc wants to save the country and democracy

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with Uddhav Thackeray (left) in Mumbai on 17 March (photo: PTI)
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi with Uddhav Thackeray (left) in Mumbai on 17 March (photo: PTI)
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PTI

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray on Monday hit out at the BJP for criticising him over his opening remarks while addressing the INDIA bloc rally in Mumbai in the presence of Rahul Gandhi and other leaders of the Opposition.

Thackeray had addressed the audience as his "deshbhakt and deshpremi (patriotic) brothers and sisters" instead of the traditional invocation of "Hindu brothers and sisters" at the Shivaji Park gathering in Mumbai.

Shivaji Park has been associated with Shiv Sena rallies since the days of party founder Bal Thackeray, who would begin his speech with "my Hindu brothers and sisters".

"BJP leaders criticised me over the opening sentence of my speech in the rally. But I want to ask them, aren't they patriots?" Uddhav Thackeray asked while addressing a rally in Vasmat in Maharashtra's Hingoli district.

Thackeray said he used the word deshpremi because the INDIA bloc wanted to save the country and democracy. "But some BJP leaders criticised me, alleging that my language (read Hindutva stand) has changed. I want to ask them, aren't you patriots? Are you Modi bhakts or deshbhakts? We are deshbhakts, not Modi bhakts," he said.

Thackeray appealed to the people to stop the rath or chariot coming to their villages, an apparent reference to the BJP's campaign for the 19 April Lok Sabha elections. "If the administration doesn't act, people should take action," he added.

Thackeray also criticised sitting Hingoli MP Hemant Patil, who won the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as the nominee of the undivided Shiv Sena, but recently joined the Eknath Shinde camp. "Earlier, Shiv Sena MPs who won from the Parbhani seat left the party. But (Sanjay) Jadhav (the sitting MP from Parbhani) didn't budge, resisting the inducements," he said.

Thackeray said he had sanctioned a turmeric research centre in Hingoli when he was chief minister, but some people take the credit for establishing this facility. "It was I who made them MLAs, MPs, while some were made ministers, but their appetite is so big," he added.

Thackeray also took a dig at deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis over his statement of 'breaking two parties'. "Some people feel proud of breaking two parties in the state. They should be given a license for house-breaking. Their (poll) symbol should be changed from the lotus to the hammer," he added.

Fadnavis on Sunday said he was mocked for his 2019 Assembly poll campaign punchline "I will be back", but he had returned to power after breaking two parties, a reference to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar's NCP.

The Shiv Sena split in June 2022 after incumbent chief minister Eknath Shinde rebelled, while the Nationalist Congress Party broke into two factions in July 2023 after Sharad Pawar's nephew Ajit Pawar joined the ruling alliance in the state.

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