Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday warned the Bharatiya Janata Party against using the language of intimidation after a leader of the saffron party threatened to demolish the Shiv Sena’s headquarters in Mumbai, PTI reported.
“Thappad se dar nahi lagta [we are not scared of being slapped],” Thackeray said. “Nobody should speak the language of slapping us as we will give back such a tight slap that the other person will not be able to get back on his feet.”
Prasad Lad, Member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council, had made the controversial remark while addressing BJP workers in Mahim on Saturday.
“Whenever we come here, a huge police force is deployed,” he had said, according to India Today. “They are so afraid. They think that when we come to Mahim, we will demolish Shiv Sena Bhavan. Don’t be afraid, if the time comes, we will do it too.”
After facing criticism from Shiv Sena as well as his own party, Lad changed his stance. “I have the highest regard for the late Bal Thackeray and see Sena Bhavan as a sacred abode,” he said a few hours after making the statement, according to The Indian Express. “How can I speak against the Sena Bhavan?”
Lad added: “Last month, the Sena had attacked our activists outside the Sena Bhavan. So it was a political reply. It was certainly not directed at the Sena supremo or the Bhavan.”
The Shiv Sena criticised the BJP in its mouthpiece Saamna. “The end is near for the BJP in Maharashtra because of the way they are behaving,” the Shiv Sena said, according to ANI. “Whosoever has looked scornfully towards Shiv Sena Bhavan, their leaders and their party were washed away in the gutters of Worli.”
The Shiv Sena described Lad as “degenerate”. “Many people having political differences with Shiv Sena, challenged it from time to time,” the party said. “But Shiv Sena stood on those challenges, however, those political opponents never talked about demolishing Shiv Sena Bhavan.”
Responding to the controversy, BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis said the saffron party did not believe in “tod phod [destructive] politics”, The Indian Express reported.
“It is not part of BJP culture,” he said. “We don’t attack anybody first. But if somebody attacks us, we don’t take it lying down. It is countered effectively.”
Strained Sena-BJP relations
The ties between former allies Shiv Sena and the BJP have been strained since 2019. The BJP had won 105 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly elections that year. The Shiv Sena, which was in an alliance with the BJP at that time, had won 56 seats.
Despite having enough seats to form the government together, the two allies bickered over power-sharing – the chief minister’s post and Cabinet portfolios – resulting in the Shiv Sena starting negotiations with the ideologically different Congress and Nationalist Congress Party instead.
With no outcome in sight then, the Centre imposed President’s Rule in Maharashtra on November 12, 2019. Days later, NCP chief Sharad Pawar announced that Thackeray had been unanimously chosen to head the new government.
In an unexpected turn of events on November 23, 2019, Fadnavis took oath as the chief minister of Maharashtra early in the morning, with NCP leader Ajit Pawar as his deputy. However, Fadnavis and Pawar resigned from their positions within three days as the Supreme Court ordered a trust vote.
Thackeray took oath as the chief minister of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government on November 28. Ajit Pawar, who switched sides, was appointed Thackeray’s deputy.