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Mumbai: The National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA) oldest constituent Shiv Sena accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of playing “vote bank politics” by proposing a Dalit nominee—Bihar governor Ramnath Kovind—for the post of president on Monday.
Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray said the Sena would not be interested in supporting the BJP nominee if he had been chosen only because he is a Dalit. “In its history of 51 years, Shiv Sena has never stooped as low as to indulge in vote bank politics for selfish gains. If you are nominating him to the president’s office to get votes of Dalits, Shiv Sena won’t give you support,” he said.
The Sena would make its stand clear on Tuesday, Thackeray said, addressing Shiv Sena cadre on the party’s 51st anniversary.
Thackeray said the Sena had recommended and supported Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat’s name because “Hindustan is a Hindu nation” and there was nobody better than Bhagwat to represent this identity.
A Shiv Sena leader who requested anonymity, however, conceded that the party had no option but “to support Kovind”. “What Thackeray has said today is what he should have said. The BJP has declared Kovind’s name only today and there is no time to react. But we can’t be seen wholeheartedly endorsing Modi’s nominee. Yet, there is no alternative to supporting him as it won’t look nice and would be politically damaging. That is why Thackeray has expressed the party’s position in such terms that it does not look too happy with the BJP choice, nor appears anti-Dalit,” the Sena leader said.
The Sena chief also attacked the BJP leaders for frequently speculating about mid-term polls in Maharashtra.
“Why is the BJP so desperate? Why only keep talking about mid-term polls. Hold them today if you will and Shiv Sena cadres would be fired up to fight,” he said, referring to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ statement that the BJP was ready for mid-term polls “if they were imposed”.