India

"This Is What We Call Democracy...": Aaditya Thackeray On VD Savarkar Row

Shiv Sena's Aaditya Thackeray urged peace among Congress, Sena leaders over VD Savarkar row

Mumbai:

Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray played the democracy card today as he sought to defuse tension between his party and the Congress over a proposal to confer the Bharat Ratna - the country's highest civilian honour - to Hindu nationalist VD Savarkar. Urging leaders from the two parties to respect the democratic process, he said parties with "different ideologues can work together" to serve state and country. Mr Thackeray also took a subtle dig at the BJP, the Sena's former ally, and said "some people (were) feeling bad" about the lack of conflict between the Congress and the Sena.

The Environment Minister's comment came shortly after party troubleshooter Sanjay Raut said those who opposed the award should be forced to spend two days in jail - specifically the Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Islands where he was imprisoned by the British.

"We may have different perceptions about some subjects... but this is what we call democracy. Despite having different ideologies, parties come together in the interest of country and state. Democracy means different ideologies can work together...," Aaditya Thackeray told reporters, breaking off to tell a reporter, "Please listen to what I am saying... don't laugh, please listen".

"The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA, which includes the Nationalist Congress Party) speaks of the aspirations of many people... feeling bad there is no conflict between Congress and Sena," he said, adding that he was unaware of the capacity in which Sanjay Raut made his statement.

The Congress and the NCP joined hands with the Shiv Sena, despite differences in political ideologies, to form the government after last year's election. The alliance has been criticised by the BJP, which failed in its attempt to grab power, as a "three-wheeler", implying that it is inherently unstable.

Addressing those concerns Mr Thackeray suggested it would be more prudent for all parties - the BJP included - to focus on whether "ratnas (jewel)" would be satisfied with the present state of the economy.

Repeating his call for calm and unity, Aaditya Thackeray also said that while it was important to be aware of history, it was more important to "not repeat it".

"Let us not waste time arguing about history... we must be respectful of each other... there are bigger issues to talk about - GDP, unemployment. Let us work to peace and happiness. I want to tell everyone... let us learn from history but not repeat it," he said.

The BJP's Devendra Fadnavis hit back at Mr Thackeray's comments and said Savarkar was "not just a person but a thought... that will continue to be our present as well as future".

The proposal to award VD Savarkar with a Bharat Ratna has been floated several times in the past, most notably in Maharashtra BJP's election manifesto last year.

The Congress, which believes Mahatma Gandhi's assassin, Nathuram Godse, was heavily influenced by Savarkar's nationalist philosophy, has reacted sharply to the suggestion.

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is among those who spoke against the proposal, saying the Congress had a bigger issue with Savarkar's ideology than the man himself.

The ongoing dispute between the Sena and the Congress over VD Savarkar also includes Rahul Gandhi's "my name is not Rahul Savarkar, I am Rahul Gandhi" remark made in Delhi last month.

With input from PTI