Pics by Rons Bantwal for Daijiworld News Network
Parikshit Joshi for Mumbai Mirror
March 20, 2006
“I am not a fool to form a party. I will come to power in Maharashtra.”
Raj Thackeray oozed confidence as he formally launched his political party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), at a mammoth rally at Shivaji Park on Sunday evening.
At the party’s very first rally, he virtually launched its campaign for the 2007 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections in front of a crowd of nearly 1.5 lakh (figure estimated by the police).
Raj said his party would keep a close watch on plots in the city reserved for schools, playgrounds and gardens. “We will not allow the administration to dereserve these plots,” Thackeray said.
Referring to the bad state of the city’s roads, he said contractors must be made accountable and ridiculed the BMC for earmarking Rs 40 crore to repair potholed roads.
He came down sharply on the Congress, citing the various issues plaguing the nation, saying that it was a shame that after nearly 58 years of Independence, elections were still being contested on the issues of providing employment, water, housing, roads and electricity.
He made no mention of the Shiv Sena or the Bharatiya Janata Party, but did refer to Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, saying that though Pawar was the Minister for Agriculture, he spoke on behalf of the affluent sugarcane growers and not the cotton cultivators of Vidarbha, who are committing suicide.’
Explainig the significance of the colours in his party flag, he said, “I have not abandoned the Hindutva agenda, but how can we go ahead without taking along good Muslims like A P J Abdul Kalam or Irfan Pathan?”
He also touched upon the Danish cartoons controversy. “When there is no photo available of Prophet Mohammed, how can anyone draw a cartoon of him? It is unjust to insult a religion in this way.” However, he demanded that Muslims also protest against artist M F Husain’s depiction of Hindu goddesses in the nude.
He sharply criticised Dalit leaders like Ramdas Athavale, Prakash Ambedkar and R S Gavai, saying that they had merely indulged in electoral politics all these years and had done little for Dalits.
Assuaging the concerns of the local Marathi populace, he said, “In Maharashtra, the son of the soil has to prosper; however, this does not mean we are against other communities.” In this context he also justified the Bharatiya Vidyarthi Sena’s attack on North Indian candidates appearing for a railway exam in Mumbai in 2003.
He said that regional exams were held to create opportunities for the local opulace. It was, therefore unjust that North Indians should appear for the exams being held in Maharashtra, he stressed.
THACKERAY Sr's STYLE
Raj’s speech was reminiscent of the style of his uncle and Sena leader Bal Thackeray. His pauses, his sentence delivery and even his mimicry of Dalit leader Athavale brought back strong memories of Thackeray senior.
Raj also referred to Bal Thackeray’s first rally at the same venue in 1966, saying that then Thackeray’s father Prabodhankar Thackeray was there to bless the Sena leader. “At the time Prabodhankar had said, ‘I dedicate Bal to Maharashtra.’ On this occasion there is nobody to utter those words for me, but I declare here that I dedicate myself for a vibrant Maharashtra.”
Throughout his speech, Raj was loudly cheered by the crowd that comprised largely youngsters.
• Nobody should touch anybody’s feet in my party. Just do a namaskar or shake hands. My hands are already sore from handshakes, so a namaste is better
RAJ LAYS DOWN THE RULES
* Nobody will touch anybody’s feet
* No renaming of places Points to be noted
* Raj Thackeray plans to set up a team dedicated to ensure the safety of women travelling in local trains.
* Bureaucrats should be made answerable and not just ministers.
* Says agriculture will never be big unless it’s made glamorous
* No reserved plots should be dereserved
* Will have separate committees to deal with electricity, water, and so on