Uddhav elusive on Modi, says real issue aam aadmi

Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday played the “aam aadmi” card, suggesting that their problems in day-to-day life are more important than the “Mandir” issue. He was noncommittal on Mr Narendra Modi’s projection as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. “I am neither supporting nor opposing the Mandir,” he said.
His statements show a division in the NDA on the strategy for the Lok Sabha elections. Mr Modi and a section of BJP hardliners believe the Hindutva and Ram Mandir issues will strengthen the BJP’s core constituency and deliver this time, but the Shiv Sena feels the “aam aadmi’s” issues would lead to the Congress’ downfall.
Responding to questions on whether the Shiv Sena is backing Mr Modi for PM candidate or sticking to its earlier stand that Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj would be the right choice for the top post, Mr Thackeray’s refrain was to allow the BJP to decide first, and only then would the NDA would take a final view on it.
This was Mr Thackeray’s first visit to the national capital after the demise of his father Bal Thackeray. During his formal interaction with mediapersons he put the record straight on key issues, including the projection of a PM candidate, Hindutva, whether he would become NDA convenor and thus play a role at the national level, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s decision to quit the NDA, the Shiv Sena’s stand on Mr Modi, and, most important, whether the coming Lok Sabha elections would be fought on the issue of Hindutva and the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya or on issues affecting the common man.
The Hindutva issue brought the Shiv Sena and BJP together in 1988-89, he pointed out in reply to a question. And the Shiv Sena got some space outside Maharashtra, especially in North India, on the Hindutva and Mandir issues. But asked whether the Shiv Sena would build the election campaign on Hindutva, his reply was “No” because of the Election Commission’s code of conduct.
Mr Thackeray indicated his party would raise the issue of the “aam aadmi’s” problems in day-to-day life. When his attention was drawn to Mr Modi’s statement “I am a Hindu nationalist”, Mr Thackeray said there was nothing wrong in it. Asked whether he would become the NDA convenor, he said there was no such proposal.
To a question on whether he felt JD(U) leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar quit the NDA in haste, he said, “He might be wanting a secular face to lead the NDA, but we want Hindutva.”
On the Food Security Bill, he said the Shiv Sena has no objection to it but the Congress is using it for electoral gain. Asked whether the demand for a separate Telangana state would have a bearing on the demand for a Vidarbha state, Mr Thackeray said the Shiv Sena would not allow Maharashtra to break.
Asked about the party’s stand on a grand memorial for Shivaji Maharaj, he shot back, “After all, a memorial has to be built in Maharashtra, it will be of Shivaji and not of Dawood.” Mr Thackeray, however, added that the Congress always uses the issue of a memorial for Shivaji in elections and has made it an issue in the last three polls.
He also sought to disapprove of BJP chief Rajnath Singh’s remarks that the English language had hurt Indian culture. He said English is a language of opportunity and as his grandfather Prabodhankar Thackeray used to say, while “one should have respect for his mother tongue, he should not ignore English”.
Dismissing reports about some Shiv Sena MPs planning to leave the party ahead of elections, he said there are “no migratory birds” in his organisation. To a query on the poll outcome of the Sangli Municipal Corporation, where the Congress won, defeating the NCP, and the Shiv Sena fared poorly, Mr Thackeray said he was also to blame for not paying proper attention to the matter. But he said he would not repeat the mistake.

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