Mumbai, October 13
Unfazed by the all-round attack over blackening Sudheendra Kulkarni's face, the Shiv Sena today brazened it out by likening him to 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab and felicitated the attackers as fissures with ally BJP raised questions about the continuance of the party in the Maharashtra government.
(Read: Sena calls Kulkarni ‘Pakistani agent’)
The Sena, a junior partner in the BJP-led governments in Maharashtra and at the Centre, also locked horns with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for criticising it, saying he had “failed to understand Maharashtra” and that his condemnation of the incident brought the state “a bad name”.
(Read: Shiv Sena decides to go it alone in KDMC polls)
Continuing with its shrill anti-Pakistan stance, a day after the paint attack triggered outrage, Shiv Sena said India faced greater threat from people like Kulkarni than extremists and terrorists. The party called him a “Pakistani agent”.
“The real threat to the sovereignty of our nation is not due to extremists or terrorists, but people like Kulkarni.
People like him are out to cut the neck of our nation.. When there are people like him present here, Pakistan does not need to send people like Kasab for terrorist activities," the Sena said in an editorial in party mouthpiece 'Saamana'.
The attack on Kulkarni yesterday came hours before he defied the Sena threat and went ahead with the launch of the book of Pakistan's former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.
"An atmosphere has been created where it now seems that Khurshid Kasuri is a messenger of peace or a Mahatma and the Sena has committed a crime by opposing him. However much we are criticised and maligned, we will not change our stand against Pakistan," it said.
Kulkarni hit back at Sena, saying "I have been labelled a Pakistani agent in Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana'. I respect their freedom of expression. They should also respect others' freedom of expression."
"When it is said I am a Pakistani agent, I say yes, I am an agent but an agent of peace and will continue to be one," he said.
The Sena, whose relations with senior partner BJP has been under strain for quite some time now, also assailed Fadnavis over his criticism of its attack on Kulkarni.
Six attackers were today felicitated by Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at his Bandra residence 'Matoshree' where he "patted" them for their work.
Later in the evening, Shiv Sena asked BJP to opt out of the coalition government in Maharashtra if it was bored of its brand of "nationalism" and "patriotism".
Striking an aggressive note, the party launched a scathing attack on BJP, further widening the rift between the allies who had parted ways ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly polls last year, but later came together to share power.
"We are a nationalist party that is full of patriotism and love for our motherland. If they (BJP) have any problem with us, or are bored with nationalism and patriotism, they should opt out of power. This is a coalition government and they can thus leave power if they want to," Sena MP Sanjay Raut told reporters.
Further needling the BJP, Raut said, "Those who are trying to teach us patriotism should first talk about Uniform Civil Code and Ram Mandir. These two issues, along with the issue of Kashmir, are directly linked to patriotism. First talk about these then give lessons on patriotism."
The Rajya Sabha MP, without naming the BJP, said the party leaders should not shy from openly saying they are fed up with the Sena and are thus giving up power.
“Uddhavji is the only person who is fighting against the atrocities of Pakistan. Yesterday, what the Sena did was in the interest of Maharashtra. We expected the BJP to support us," Raut said. — PTI