Palghar (Maharashtra): Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Wednesday came down heavily on the Shiv Sena, saying Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray would have been most unhappy to see the party seek to divide Hindus in the land of Chhatrapati Shivaji.
Adityanath was addressing a large gathering in Virar on Mumbai’s periphery, which is part of the Palghar Lok Sabha constituency that goes to a crucial bypoll on 28 May. The Shiv Sena has fielded its candidate in this bypoll against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nominee.
Adityanath said the Shiv Sena invoked Shivaji but did “the work of Afzal Khan", who was sent on a mission to kill Shivaji but was assassinated by the latter.
“People who try to alienate Uttar Pradesh from Maharashtra do not have the interests of Bharat in their hearts. They invoke Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj but do the work of Afzal Khan," Adityanath said.
The UP chief minister and Hindutva poster boy came with a bunch of BJP legislators and UP ministers, including women and child development minister Rita Bahuguna.
Adityanath’s presence in a Lok Sabha bypoll in Maharashtra is also explained by the large chunk of North Indians and migrant labourers from UP and Bihar in the constituency. North Indians account for 22% of 1.7 million voters, mostly concentrated in Vasai, Virar, and Nallasopara.
It was clear from the atmospherics at the Adityanath meeting on Wednesday — sadhus and spiritual leaders sitting on the dais and the aggressive Hindutva body language — that the BJP is keen to marry development, the plank chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has been harping on, with Hindutva.
The Palghar bypoll has been necessitated by the death of BJP MP Chintaman Wanga in January. After the bypoll was announced, the Shiv Sena upped the ante against the BJP by inducting Wanga’s son Shriniwas into the party and fielding him from Palghar, which according to the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance in 2014 was a BJP seat.
This raised the stakes for the BJP in this constituency reserved for the Scheduled Tribes (ST) candidates. The BJP has fielded former Maharashtra minister Rajendra Gavit, a Congress import. Four time MP Damodar Shingda is the Congress candidate.
Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi, an influential local party that has three legislators from the district, has fielded Baliram Jadhav. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), which has a significant support base in Dahanu, Vasai, and Talasari pockets, has fielded Kiran Gehla.