Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde on Monday paid rich tributes to Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, saying he was the only Indian leader that Pakistan feared and though the late politician espoused the cause of Hindutva, he never hated the Muslim community.
Speaking at the inauguration of an oil portrait of Bal Thackeray in the central hall of Maharashtra legislative building in south Mumbai on the occasion of his 97th birth anniversary, he said the Sena founder never compromised on his values to gain power. Former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, the son of Bal Thackeray, and his family members did not attend the event.
Shinde said, “Balasaheb Thackeray was the only leader in the country that Pakistan feared. He was an ardent supporter of Hindutva, but never hated the Muslim community. His only opposition was to those who used to praise Pakistan, while living in India.” Without taking the name of his predecessor and now political rival Uddhav Thackeray, who heads a faction of the Shiv Sena, the CM said, “He (Bal Thackeray) never compromised on his values to gain power. He functioned as a remote control of the government (in 1995-99 when Sena-BJP combine was in power) but never used it for personal gains.” Uddhav Thackeray, who was ousted from power in June last year after a section of MLAs revolted against his leadership, has consistently accused the rival Shinde-led camp (Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena) of working only to protect their personal interests.
“One definition of democracy is (rule) ‘by the people, for the people’. Balasaheb was the only leader who practiced it. Earlier, there were a handful of political families who used to control state politics. This picture was changed by Balasaheb,” said the chief minister.
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Reacting to the unveiling of the Sena founder’s portrait in the Vidhan Bhavan complex, Uddhav Thackeray said, “Your act of installing an oil painting of Balasaheb may be good, but your intention is bad.” Dubbing Governor B S Koshyari, who has expressed his desire to leave office, as a “Maharashtra-hater”, the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader said, “He should have been driven away.” Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya, a former minister and the MLA from Worli in Mumbai, and other family members stayed away from the official event. The father-son duo, along with other prominent members of the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), offered floral tributes to the late politician’s statue located a few kilometres away from the Vidhan Bhavan building in south Mumbai.
They later attended a programme at Shanmukhananda Hall in Sion organised on the occasion of Bal Thackeray’s birth anniversary.
However, Uddhav Thackeray’s estranged cousin Raj Thackeray, who heads a breakaway faction of the Shiv Sena, MNS, was present at the event in Vidhan Bhavan.