Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, who has been lately hogging the headlines for opposing the use of loudspeakers in mosques and his renewed love for Hindutva, announced on Friday that he was postponing his Ayodhya visit slated for June 5. Tweeting his change in plans, he said would share further details about his visit at a rally in Pune on May 22. The MNS had put up ‘Chalo Ayodhya’ posters in Mumbai, urging the people to join Raj on his trip and made train reservations for the journey of MNS workers and followers to Ayodhya.
MNS insiders claim the postponement of the trip has been necessitated by health issues. However, the trigger seems to have been the strong opposition by BJP MP Brij Bhushan Singh, who has been the lone voice demanding that Raj Thackeray’s visit won’t happen till he tenders an unconditional apology to north Indians, for running a campaign against them in 2008.
Raj Thackeray has been an open critic of migrant workers from north India, especially UP and Bihar, coming to Maharashtra.
The anti-Raj protests were spearheaded by Singh, who, along with his lakhs of supporters, threatened to block his entry to Ayodhya on June 5. The BJP was unable to restrain Singh from making this threat repeatedly and kept saying that ‘Rambhakts’ were welcome in Ayodhya.
The MNS chief’s backtracking provided fodder to the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi partners. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut claimed the BJP was using Raj Thackeray, saying, “Some people understand it late. I got to know from the media that the other party (MNS) cancelled some programmes in Ayodhya. We would have supported them. After all, there’s a huge section of Shiv Sena supporters in Ayodhya,” he added.
State Congress General Secretary Sachin Sawant alleged that the BJP was responsible for the disgrace of Raj Thackeray. “Initially, it was the BJP which supported Raj Thackeray. However, to avoid another claimant and beneficiary of Hindutva, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal disowned the MNS chief. Now, the MNS has been consciously manipulated to influence north Indian voters,” he claimed.
State NCP spokesman Suraj Chavan wondered how someone with the Thackeray surname was scared off by a BJP MP.
However, Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis (BJP) tried to downplay Raut’s statement that the BJP was using Raj Thackeray. “I think Raj Thackeray has postponed the tour, not cancelled it. Our clear position is that anyone who goes to Ayodhya should be welcomed. It is wrong to block him. Whenever he goes, he will be welcomed,” he said.
MNS leaders Bala Nandgaonkar and Sandeep Deshpande said the party chief would enlighten the people about his visit at his planned public rally in Pune on Sunday.