MNS books trains and hotels for Raj Thackeray’s Ayodhya tour
Mumbai: The proposed visit to Ayodhya by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on June 5 has put the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a fix, as some party members voicing for and against Thackeray’s visit
Mumbai: The proposed visit to Ayodhya by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on June 5 has put the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in a fix, as some party members voicing for and against Thackeray’s visit.
While BJP’s Kaiserganj MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh has vociferously opposed the tour and unleashed a campaign seeking an apology from the MNS chief for his controversial views on north Indians, leader of the opposition and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis batted for Thackeray’s visit, saying that BJP MPs should not oppose the rally.
Meanwhile, the MNS has started preparations for the Ayodhya rally by booking trains and hotels.
After making a switch to the hardline Hindutva agenda, Thackeray announced his visit to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh on June 5 and asserted the same during three of his rallies held in April and May. He is expected to oversee the construction of the Lord Ram temple there. He also wants to meet Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, whom he praised for bringing down loudspeakers from mosques.
However, BJP seems to be divided on this. MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said, “If Raj Thackeray does not want to apologise to north Indians, he should at least apologise to PM Narendra Modi. We will be satisfied with that.”
Singh has been holding conventions of religious leaders of temples along with rallies pressing for his demand.
The MP had a supporter in Mumbai and within the BJP-led NDA as union minister Ramdas Athawale jumped into the ongoing debate which created a flutter at the national level. “Raj Thackeray should apologise for hurting the feelings of the north Indians,” said Athawale.
Not just north Indians, but BJP Mumbai’s spokesperson Sanjay Thakur believes Thackeray should apologise to others too. In a letter addressed to Thackeray, Thakur said. “He should apologise to migrant hawkers, taxi drivers, and the labourers who faced his ire.”
Thakur’s views were rebutted within hours by the BJP. “Sanjay Thakur’s views are personal and not of the BJP. Our contention is that any citizen of the country can visit any place of worship. Since Raj Thackeray is coming to Ayodhya as a devotee of Lord Ram, we welcome him there,” said BJP Mumbai spokesperson Udaypratap Singh.
In Uttar Pradesh, Faizabad MP Lallu Singh whose constituency covers Ayodhya has welcomed Raj Thackeray’s visit. Singh contended that anyone seeking refuge to Lord Ram is always welcome. “As devotees of Lord Ram, we welcome anyone seeking refuge in Lord Ram. This is due to the grace of Lord Ram that Raj Thackeray is coming to Ayodhya and we will welcome him,” said Lallu Singh. He denied that there is any protest-like situation in the state. “It is the local administration’s job to ensure law and order. There is no opposition in BJP and what Brij Bhushan Singh is saying is his personal opinion,” said Lallu Singh.
After forming his party in 2006, Raj Thackeray unleashed a campaign against north Indians. His workers beat up north Indian vendors and attacked theatres screening Bhojpuri films. Raj also opposed the Chhath Puja calling it a show of strength by the north Indians. In addition, he also targeted Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan and his wife Jaya Bachchan saying they cared more about their native place Uttar Pradesh than Mumbai. MNS activists also thrashed north Indian candidates appearing for the All-India Railway Recruitment Board entrance exam for the Western region in Mumbai.
This paid him huge dividends as MNS performed exceptionally well in the 2009 parliamentary and assembly polls along with 2012 civic polls across the state. The MNS was able to bag power in Nashik civic body.
However, Raj Thackeray then took a u-turn and dumped the ‘Son of Soil’, and embraced Hindutva in 2020 after his disastrous electoral performances in 2014 and 2019 polls.
The MNS is meanwhile facing logistical issues in planning the trip. The party asked for 10 special trains to visit Ayodhya. However, since it is holiday time, the railways are finding it difficult to accommodate their demands. In addition, MNS plans to house their workers in various ‘Akharas’ as there is a shortage of hotels in Faizabad. They have booked around three hotels in Faizabad. Many workers are also coming by road in their private vehicles. “We are in a tightrope situation and we might have to ask many workers to drop their tour plans,” said MNS leader Shirish Sawant.
Raj Thackeray vs North Indians
The MNS has a history of aggression against North Indian migrants
February 2008: MNS workers clashed with Samajwadi Party (SP) workers and beat up North Indian taxi and auto drivers. Some MNS workers even hurled empty bottles at Amitabh Bachchan’s Juhu bungalow.
May 2008: Raj Thackeray opposed Chhat Puja. He called it a ‘Show of Strength’ by North Indians.
October 2008: MNS workers attacked 13 railway board examination centres, protesting inadequate representation to locals and chased away candidates from north India who had come to give exams.
January 2009: MNS workers attacked North Indian residents in Nashik who were paying tribute to the victims of 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes.
Raj Thackeray in rallies in 2008:
“I did not talk of Chhat Puja but only remarked on this show of strength. I want to make it clear that in Maharashtra only Maharashtra day will be celebrated and not Uttar Pradesh day.”
“The Maharashtrian hawker should get priority but here we have all the sympathy for those hawkers who have come from outside.”
“See how these migrants have taken over our cities? See Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik. No one knows who these migrants are and where they are coming from?”