The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday lashed out at Congress leader and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan after he reportedly said his party took the approval of Muslims before aligning with the Shiv Sena in the state to stop the saffron party from returning to power.
The Sonia Gandhi-led party is part of the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi along with the Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party.
“Maharashtra Congress leader Ashok Chavan admits that his party took approval from Muslims before forming government with Shiv Sena,” the saffron party tweeted. “It’s high time Congress changed its name to Indian National Muslim League. Wondering if Rahul Gandhi took the consent of Imran Khan Niazi [Pakistan prime minister] also.”
In a video that has gone viral on social media, Chavan, the public works department minister in the government of Uddhav Thackeray, is heard saying that the Congress joined hands with the Shiv Sena on the “insistence” of the “Muslim community”, PTI reported. He is said to have made the remarks recently at an anti-Citizenship Amendment Act rally in Nanded in the state’s Marathwada region.
“We have a [coalition] government in place in the state,” Chavan purportedly said in the video. “The Congress decided to join the government to avoid the [repeat of] losses the state had suffered in the last five years. Our Muslim brothers also insisted that we join the government to keep the biggest enemy, the BJP, away from power.”
However, the former chief minister told PTI on Tuesday that he did not specifically mention Muslims in his speech. “I had only said that all communities had told our party to join the government,” he claimed.
The ruling coalition was formed after former allies BJP and the Shiv Sena could not reach a power-sharing agreement following Assembly elections in October.
At one point, even before the alliance could stake claim to form the government after almost a month of twists and turns, the BJP briefly formed the government with the support of a breakaway faction of the Nationalist Congress Party led by Ajit Pawar. However, most NCP MLAs who had appeared to back Ajit Pawar returned to the party fold, with Pawar himself stepping down as deputy chief minister and joining the NCP back when the numbers seemed stacked against the saffron party.
The Shiv Sena won 56 seats in the elections in October, while the BJP emerged as the single-largest outfit with 105 constituencies. The NCP bagged 54 seats while the Congress won 44 constituencies.