At Shiv Sena's annual Dussehra rally on Sunday, a combative Uddhav Thackeray attacked Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari over the issue of re-opening of temples in the state, took on the BJP for its free COVID-19 vaccine announcement in Bihar and also broke his silence over allegations against his son Aaditya Thackeray in the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.
The event, usually held at the sprawling Shivaji Park, took place at Savarkar hall in Dadar due to coronavirus restrictions.
"We are being questioned on our Hindutva because we have not yet opened temples in the state," said the Maharashtra chief minister in an apparent reference to the heated exchange with the governor.
"They say my Hindutva is different from that of Balasaheb Thackeray. Your Hindutva is about clanging bells and utensils. Our Hindutva is not like that," The Times of India quoted Thackeray as saying.
Koshyari had written a letter to Thackeray, accusing him of "turning secular" for not having permitted temples to re-open. The Shiv Sena chief had hit back, saying he did not need a certificate of Hindutva from Koshyari.
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Stepping up the pitch, Thackeray said that when Babri Masjid was brought down, those "questioning our Hindutva", were hiding with tail between their legs.
As per a NDTV report, further attacked the BJP, saying: "You are talking about our Hindutva. So in Maharashtra, you are putting a ban on beef, but in Goa you are okay with beef. Is this your Hindutva?"
Referring RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's speech in Nagpur earlier in the day, Thackeray said, "the RSS chief said Hindutva has been narrowed down to only observing puja rituals."
In a veiled jibe at Koshyari, Thackeray said: "Those who wear a black cap like him should understand this if they have brains," Thackeray.
"I have no happiness in shutting down places. Lifting of restrictions is being done cautiously and gradually," he added.
Thackeray dared the saffron party to topple the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra and asked it to first protect its government at the Centre
"From the day I became the chief minister, it was being said that the state government will be toppled. They keep giving dates. I challenge and say that if you have the courage, do it and show," Hindustan Times quoted Thackeray as saying.
"Instead of the 'no alternative' factor as was the case earlier, people have now started thinking that anyone will do except you," Thackeray said, at what was seen as a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He said that the country was headed towards anarchy as steps were being taken to topple governments instead of focusing on bolstering the economy.
"Though the country is facing a pandemic, how can one indulge in politics? Shiv Sena's Hindutva is being questioned. The Maharashtra government and Mumbai Police are being maligned," he said.
The chief minister targetted the saffron party over its alliance with the Janata Dal (United), claiming that JD(U) chief and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, had once given a call for a "Sangh-mukt Bharat" and had also sought a 'secular face' in 2014 as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate.
"Has Nitish donned Hindutva robes or has BJP become secular now?" Thackeray asked.
The chief minister slammed the BJP over its poll promise of free COVID-19 vaccine in Bihar, questioning whether the party thinks those from other states hail from Bangladesh or Kazakhstan.
"You promise free COVID-19 vaccine in Bihar, then are people of other states from Bangladesh or Kazakhstan," Thackeray said. "Those speaking like that should be ashamed of themselves. You are at the Centre," he added.
A row had erupted after the BJP in its manifesto for the upcoming Bihar elections had said that every citizen of the state will be provided with a vaccine for free after it became available.
The Shiv Sena chief also waded into the allegations against his son Aaditya in the Rajput death case, saying that those calling for justice for Bihar's son were carrying out character assassination of "Maharashtra's son."
A political tussle had erupted between the Maharashtra and Bihar governments after Rajput was found dead in his apartment in Bandra on 14 June, in what the Mumbai Police said was a case of suicide. The case was later handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation on the recommendation of Nitish's government.
In a veiled attack on actress Kangana Ranaut, Thackeray said some people come to Mumbai for bread and butter and abuse the city by calling it "Pakistan-occupied Kashmir" (PoK).
"People who have no means of livelihood in their home come to Mumbai and betray it. Calling Mumbai as PoK is in fact the failure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He had said he would get back PoK into India," Thackeray said.
He said Maharashtra-haters had left no stone unturned to defame the state.
Thackeray said the time has come to reconsider the present Goods and Services Tax (GST) system and if necessary, to modify it as states are not benefiting from this system. "We (Maharashtra) are yet to get our Rs 38,000 crore as GST refund," he said.
The Centre and states were engaged in a stand-off over the issue of pending GST compensation, with non-BJP states opposing the Centre's borrowing options.
On 15 October the Union finance ministry announced that the Centre will borrow up to Rs 1.1 lakh crore on behalf of the states to bridge the shortfall in GST collections.
Thackeray also warned BJP not to divide people over caste, creed and religion.
BJP hits back
The Maharashtra BJP hit back at the chief minister, claiming he had nothing to say about the performance of his 11-month government and only targeted the BJP and the Centre in his speech.
State BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye alleged that Thackeray had nothing to highlight about his government's functioning to the Shiv Sainiks.
"Shiv Sena compromised on the Hindutva front for power. Uddhav Thackeray did not say a word about Congress criticising Savarkar and now he had to address the Dussehra rally from the Savarkar auditorium. This is poetic justice," he said.
On the issue of GST compensation, Upadhye alleged that the state government had not responded to the Centre's proposal.
The BJP leader also criticised the state government over its package for farmers, saying it had made a mockery of the farmers by announcing only Rs 10,000 crore.
Upadhye said the state has the highest number of coronavirus patients in the country.
With inputs from PTI-