Aaditya Thackeray on Wednesday sought to distance himself from the strident “anti-migrant” stance that the Shiv Sena, founded by his late grandfather Bal Thackeray, has often been accused of.
The Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader and former Maharashtra minister, whose first trip to Bihar intensified the buzz around “opposition unity”, claimed that those who have been hostile towards the Hindi-speaking north Indians were now “with the BJP” and asserted that all communities had “co-existed peacefully when we were in power in Maharashtra”.
Notably, Thackeray’s father Uddhav headed the Maha Vikas Aghadi government that also included Sharad Pawar’s NCP and the Congress.
He resigned as Chief Minister of Maharashtra earlier this year after which a rebel faction of Shiv Sena headed by Eknath Shinde formed a new government with BJP.
Aaditya Thackeray, accompanied by party Rajya Sabha MPs Anil Desai and Priyanka Chaturvedi, had “goodwill meetings” with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav.
During a brief interaction with the media, Thackeray lauded Yadav for his “good work” and disclosed that he had been in touch over phone with the RJD leader for quite some time though this was the first occasion for them to meet in person.
He insisted that there was “nothing political” about his Bihar visit and when journalists asked whether he expected Yadav to campaign for his party in the municipal polls at Mumbai, he replied “the elections are far away”.
He, however, added “I have invited Tejashwi Yadav for a personal tour of Maharashtra. He has invited me to visit Bihar’s tourist spots. We both shall be looking forward to each other’s trips”.
When some of the scribes touched a raw nerve with the query whether “Biharis can now rest assured that they will not be beaten up in your state”, Thackeray said “those who indulged in such acts are now with the BJP. It is for them to answer”.
“All lived together and in peace when we ruled Maharashtra”, asserted the young leader who held a ministerial berth in his father’s government.
Thackeray spoke with Yadav by his side and both ducked queries like “will Shiv Sena’s Hindutva be able to make peace with RJD’s secularism”.
Yadav, on his part, stated that the need of the hour was to “save the Constitution from the onslaughts of the BJP government at the Centre”.
“We all know about the brazen use of money power to topple the government in Maharashtra. The BJP had got emboldened by its success there and tried to do the same in Bihar where it ended up burning its fingers”, said the RJD heir apparent.
The allusion was to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and alleged attempts to split the party by its former national president RCP Singh who, it is widely believed, enjoyed the BJP’s backing.
Kumar, the JD(U)’s de facto leader, dumped the BJP in August but retained power joining the “Mahagathbandhan” comprising RJD, Congress and the Left.
The longest serving CM of Bihar has since been calling for “unity among parties opposed to the BJP”, claiming that it was possible to summarily defeat the party in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Meanwhile, the BJP, which has been sore over “betrayal” by Kumar earlier this year and by Uddhav Thackeray in 2019, fumed over the prospects of a new grouping of regional forces.
Several statements were issued by BJP spokespersons during the day, taunting Thackeray for joining hands with “corrupt” RJD and lambasting Yadav for cosying up to “anti Bihari” Shiv Sena.