The Shiv Sena on Sunday raised questions about the death of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This is the Sena’s latest attack on ally Bharatiya Janata Party.
Senior leader Sanjay Raut, in an editorial in Shiv Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana, wondered if Vajpayee died on August 16 or if his death was announced on that day so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech was not interrupted. Vajpayee died at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi on August 16 after a long illness.
“Rather than our people, our rulers should first understand what is ‘swarajya’ [self-rule],” the editorial said. “Vajpayee died on August 16, but from 12-13 August, his condition was deteriorating. To avoid national mourning and lowering of flag to half-mast on Independence Day, and also [as] Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to make his elaborate speech from the Red Fort, Vajpayee left this world [or his death was announced] on August 16.”
The Marathi editorial ran under the headline “What is Swarajya?” It did not, however, explain why the time of death was being questioned.
Raut, who is also the editor of Saamana, noted that National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah was heckled in Srinagar earlier this month for saying “Bharat mata ki jai” and “Jai hind” at a condolence meeting for Vajpayee. “And the government shielded the culprits. This new kind of freedom has now emerged,” Raut wrote in his editorial.
“When it is learnt that police have captured terrorists who had planned to carry out attacks in Delhi, it tells you that Independence Day is nearing,” he added. “This tradition continued this year too. Ten terrorists who wanted to sabotage Independence Day celebrations were arrested. Huge cache of arms was seized. So the prime minister celebrated Independence Day fearlessly.”
Further attacking Modi’s Independence Day speech, Raut claimed that Modi’s tone of speech “suggested that previous governments did nothing, so the freedom [until now] was a waste”. Though the prime minister says people who demand bribes will be penalised, the act itself has not decreased, Raut added.
“It is true that welfare schemes are run on the tax which honest people pay,” Raut wrote. “It is also true that Prime Minister’s foreign tours are funded by the same money, and thousands of crores are spent on advertisements from the same money. This is how the new ‘Swarajya’ is functioning.”
The Shiv Sena joined several Opposition parties earlier this month in their criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s interviews to some news outlets ahead of Independence Day. In its mouthpiece Saamana, the party drew parallels with the interviews and propaganda associated with Russia and China.