Mumbai: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray alleged on Thursday that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the centre was working out a “settlement" with fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. Thackeray said the gangster himself wanted to return to India “to die in his homeland" but the BJP government wanted to show his return as its achievement to secure political gains in the next elections.

“The BJP government will do many such things now ahead of elections. One of these things that I know for sure is that they are in settlement talks with Dawood Ibrahim who is very ill and handicapped and who wants to return to India to die. They will exploit his return in the elections, saying that we got Dawood when so many previous governments failed," Thakeray said.

Dawood Ibrahim, widely believed to be in Pakistan, is one of the prime accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, and has been declared an absconder.

Thackeray was speaking at a public event to launch his Facebook page. The MNS chief said his social media outreach would be a means to put forth his views on issues, talk to his supporters and party workers, and present a “factual" perspective on public issues. “This is my way to read between the lines and interpret it for you," Thackeray said. He assured at least one Facebook Live event very month to engage with his supporters and cadres.

Recalling his stints as a caricaturist with Marathi weekly Marmik and Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna and freelancing for Marathi daily Loksatta, Thackeray said he was always itching to launch a newspaper or weekly of his own. The Shiv Sena, which Raj Thackeray quit in 2006, runs Saamna and uses it to broadcast its position on public issues.

Thackeray claimed he was the first to suggest Narendra Modi’s name for Prime Minister, even as he used the occasion to launch a broadside on Modi’s nearly three-and-a-half years in office.

“Except for the colour of the currency notes, what has changed in three-and-a-half years? Make in India has failed. Demonetisation has failed. Modi has turned out to be a big hoax and there is no limit to his lies," Thackeray said. He added that he had supported Modi because he saw the promise of progress in Modi. “But in all these three-and-a-half years, all Modi has done is give empty slogans and organize events," he said. The MNS chief slammed the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, saying it was a “ploy to break Mumbai from Maharashtra and link it with Gujarat".

“I do not understand the logic in taking a loan of Rs1.1 trillion to build the bullet train that connects Gujaratis in Ahmedabad with Gujaratis in Mumbai," he said.

MNS, which Thackeray founded in 2006 after leaving the Shiv Sena, has had a moderate to poor run in elections. In the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, it has a lone legislator. But in the 2009 assembly polls, it had 13 assembly seats and damaged the Shiv Sena in many constituencies. Similarly, the MNS won seven seats in the 2007 Mumbai civic polls and jumped to 28 in the 2012 civic elections. But in the February 2017 Mumbai polls, it won only seven seats. In the last couple of months, Thackeray has made several organizational changes and the launch of the Facebook page is part of this image makeover plan.

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