Amid opposition from BJP MP, Raj Thackeray postpones Ayodhya trip
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Friday announced that his proposed visit to Ayodhya on June 5 had been postponed
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Friday announced that his proposed visit to Ayodhya on June 5 had been postponed. “Ayodhya tour postponed for now....Will explain in detail..,” Thackeray tweeted.
The decision comes in the wake of strong opposition from Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Uttar Pradesh, who had threatened to disrupt the MNS chief’s visit unless he apologised to north Indians for his party’s violence against them in Mumbai in 2008.
“The local police have told our leaders that it will be difficult to provide security to MNS workers. The party has booked akharas to house our workers and even one stray incident of violence will trigger an overall reaction against north Indians in Maharashtra,” an MNS leader, who declined to come on record, said.
“We were told that the BJP MP had heated the atmosphere and there are intelligence inputs that there could be a friction between MNS workers and Singh’s supporters,” he added.
MNS leader Bala Nandgaonkar said the entire issue would be explained by Thackeray at his rally scheduled at Ganesh Kala Krida Kendra auditorium in Pune on Sunday. “Rajsaheb has already announced that he will explain his postponement on Sunday and we are all eager to hear him out.”
However, the BJP MP is far from being satisfied with the postponement. “Raj Thackeray may have put off his tour but we will not be satisfied until he tenders an apology. Till he does that he will not be allowed, even in the future. The north Indian population cannot forget his insults and they can only be assuaged after he apologises to them,” Singh said.
The MNS leader said, “No one till date has used such derogatory remarks against Rajsaheb and he has restrained his people from hitting back, but Brij Bhushan continues his tirade. This is sending a wrong message to the people as the Thackeray family does not tolerate such language and there is tremendous pressure from the workers to retaliate.”
Thackeray is also peeved at the BJP leadership, particularly Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, for their failure to rein in Singh. His grouse is Brij Bhushan is abusing him daily and this cannot go on, and that the whole campaign is orchestrated to malign him.
Though the Maharashtra BJP has tried to convince Thackeray that they are with him, they have expressed helplessness as the UP leadership is not responding positively.
Leader of opposition in the council Pravin Darekar, however, said, “Raj Thackeray has only postponed his visit and not cancelled it. I don’t think it is only because of Brij Bhushan Singh. The MP is carrying out this campaign in his individual capacity. Our stance is any Indian citizen can visit any places of worship and Raj Thackeray will visit Ayodhya in the near future.”
MNS leaders have attributed the postponement to multiple reasons. One of them is Adityanath’s birthday is June 5 and a huge celebration has already been planned in Ayodhya. Another is Thackeray has developed medical problems and hence, his family does not want him to travel to UP.
The MNS also faces logistical problems as it wants to book 10 trains exclusively for the Ayodhya trip and things are not working out. “Being a holiday season, we were not able to solve the travel issues. Even accommodation is a problem as hotels are located at Faizabad and MNS workers were being adjusted in akharas. We needed to show our strength as the entire media would be covering this event,” another MNS leader, who was planning the travel and accommodation, said.
Shiv Sena taunted the MNS for putting off the visit. “I got to know through the media that the Ayodhya tour of some other party has been cancelled. But had they wanted some assistance from us, we would have given it to them for their June 5 trip because there are a lot of followers of Sena in Uttar Pradesh and we are always welcome in Ayodhya. The people of Ayodhya, the saints and politicians of UP have welcomed us,” Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said.
The Sena leader further said environment minister Aaditya Thackeray’s visit to Ayodhya would happen as planned on June 15, where he would likely visit the Iskcon temple and meet some local leaders.
Raut alleged that BJP used Raj for its political gains. “We don’t know what issues [led to the postponement] and why BJP did this to them. BJP always uses leaders from Maharashtra for its political gains and this is wrong. It would be good if some people got wiser after this incident as it damages Maharashtra.”
After forming his party in 2006, Raj Thackeray began a campaign against north Indians. His workers beat up north Indian vendors and attacked theatres screening Bhojpuri films. Raj also opposed Chhath Puja, calling it a show of strength by the north Indians. In addition, he targeted Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan and his wife Jaya Bachchan. saying they cared more about their native Uttar Pradesh than Mumbai. MNS activists even thrashed north Indian candidates appearing for the All India Railway Recruitment Board entrance exam for the western region held in Mumbai.
This paid him huge dividends as the MNS performed exceptionally well in the 2009 Lok Sabha and assembly polls and the 2012 civic elections. The party was able to come to power in the Nashik civic body.
However, Raj changed his track after back-to-back defeats in the 2014 and 2019 assembly elections and embraced the Hindutva agenda in 2020. He started his campaign against the loudspeakers installed atop the mosques but it fizzled out because of the strong action by the state government.
The MNS chief announced his visit to Ayodhya and asserted it in three of his rallies held in April and May. He was expected to oversee the construction of the Ram temple there. He also wanted to meet Adityanath, who he praised for bringing down the loudspeakers from the mosques in UP.