The Shiv Sena on Tuesday patted its activists who blackened senior journalist Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face for hosting a book launch of Pakistan’s former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri but a party leader said the Sena-BJP alliance was unlikely to snap.
Sena president Uddhav Thackeray met the party activists who carried out the widely condemned ink attack on Monday on Kulkarni, a long-time former aide to BJP leader L.K. Advani.
The activists, whom some Sena leaders said were “heroes”, were called to the Thackeray clan’s residence in Bandra East where the party chief showered praises on them.
On Monday morning, the six activists, working for local Shiv Sena branches, accosted Kulkarni outside his Sion home, shouted slogans and smeared black ink on his face.
They were protesting against Kulkarni’s decision to host Kasuri for hosting the release of Kasuri book, “Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy”.
The activists are Gajanan Patil, Prakash Asbe, Ashok Waghmare, Samadhan Jugdar, Sarjerao Jadhav and Venkatesh Nair.
They were arrested late on Monday night and later released on bail, raising questions on the survival of Sena’s alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra.
The Sena has been the BJP’s oldest ally. But ties between them turned sour after the BJP fought the Maharashtra assembly election on its own in October 2014 and won more seats than the Sena – and formed its first-ever government in the state. The Sena later joined the government.
On Tuesday, senior Sena leader and minister Ramdas Kadam dismissed growing speculation that the uneasy alliance would break in Maharashtra.
“We are unhappy with the BJP. They played politics on the foundation stone laying ceremony for the Ambedkar Memorial (on Sunday). But this does not mean the alliance will break down. Any decision on this will be taken by our party president,” Kadam told the media.
Reacting, BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said after Kadam’s statement, all speculation on the fate of the state government had been put at rest.
That did not deter the two parties from attacking each other. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said the attack on Kulkarni had brought a bad name to Maharashtra.
Sanjay Raut, executive editor of Sena mouthpiece “Saamana” and MP, retorted that the BJP’s support to Kasuri had tarnished the state’s image.
He said the Sena’s anti-Pakistan stance will continue, and the attack on Kulkarni had raised the country’s stature.
He said that while policemen from Maharashtra sacrificed their lives while nabbing Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab in 2008, the same force was forced to give protection to Kasuri.
“Nothing can be more insulting than this,” Raut said.
Earlier, the Saamna called Kulkarni a Pakistani agent.
“With persons like Kulkarni around, where is the need for Pakistan to send terrorists like Ajmal Kasab to the country? A hundred Kasabs will not be able to achieve what a few Kulkarnis can,” it said.
“It is shameful how Kulkarni roamed around for hours with his face blackened by patriotic persons, and how he uploaded a selfie on Twitter, alleging it was done by Shiv Sainiks.”