Mumbai: As the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) administration in Maharashtra nears its two-year-mark, strife-stricken Amravati has become the latest battleground between the ruling alliance and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The district police have arrested a former BJP minister for Saturday’s violence in the city, and his party has alleged that the government is targeting only Hindu protestors.
Political analysts say the BJP is attempting to occupy the Shiv Sena’s space as an aggressive Hindutva outfit, with its state president Chandrakant Patil calling the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance “spineless” for its inaction against Muslim protestors and even invoking Bal Thackeray, saying, “Hindus would not have been alive” if the Shiv Sena founder had taken a compromised stand during the 1992-93 Mumbai riots.
However, MVA leaders such as Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) minister Nawab Malik have characterised the violence as a BJP conspiracy to stir up trouble in Maharashtra and destabilise the government.
Raut questioned why the recent riots in Tripura resulted in a backlash only in Maharashtra and not in any BJP-ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh.
What happened in Amravati?
Last Friday, Islamist organisation Raza Academy called protests across cities in Maharashtra, amid reports of a mosque being allegedly vandalised in Tripura. The protests became violent in Amravati, Nanded and Malegaon, after which the BJP called a bandh in Amravati Saturday. This bandh also turned violent, with incidents of stone-pelting and cars being damaged.
Patil characterised this as a “spontaneous reaction” by Hindus to the previous day’s violence, and said that “Hindu ab maar nahi khayega (Hindus will not take hits anymore)”.
There were reports of Shiv Sena leaders participating in the bandh, but party sources told ThePrint that local leaders may have acted of their own volition.
The Amravati rural police Monday arrested former BJP minister Anil Bonde for Saturday’s violence, along with other party leaders including Tushar Bharatiya, Chetan Gavande, Nivedita Choudhary, Mangesh Khond, Surekha Lungare and Radha Kuril. All the arrested BJP leaders obtained bail later in the day. Thus far, the police have arrested 132 people for the two days’ violence.
The arrests drew sharp criticism from the BJP, with Patil tweeting, “Why action only against BJP workers and pro-Hindu activists? It is disgraceful to see such double standards when Balasaheb Thackeray’s son Uddhav Thackeray is chief minister. The people will soon teach this double-faced government the right lesson.”
केवळ भाजपा कार्यकर्त्यांवर आणि हिंदुत्ववाद्यांवरच कारवाई का? स्व. हिंदुहृदयसम्राट बाळासाहेब ठाकरे यांचे चिरंजीव उद्धव ठाकरे स्वतः मुख्यमंत्रीपदावर असताना त्यांच्या नेतृत्वाखाली असा दुटप्पीपणा होणे लांच्छनास्पद आहे. या दुटप्पी सरकारला जनता लवकरच योग्य तो धडा शिकवेल.
— Chandrakant Patil (@ChDadaPatil) November 15, 2021
BJP MLA Nitesh Rane also lodged a complaint Monday against the Shiv Sena’s Arjun Khotkar for allegedly inciting violence through a speech, along with a complaint against Raza Academy.
Lodged complaint against @razaacademyho n @OfficeofUT‘s colleague @miarjunkhotkar u/s 120B, 143, 147, 148, 149, 153, 153A,153B, 268, 290, 295A, 298, 325, 326, 352, 355, 356, 392, 427, 436, 447, 461, 505(1)(b)(c) & (2), 506 at SP @sp_jalna @NandedPolice for rioting @AmitShah pic.twitter.com/QGKkNlGNGU
— nitesh rane (@NiteshNRane) November 16, 2021
MVA leaders, in turn, accused the BJP of working with Raza Academy, with Raut calling the organisation a “BJP-promoted outfit” and Malik releasing a photo of BJP leader Ashish Shelar with Raza Academy leaders. Shelar dismissed it as an old photo being used to spread rumours.
— Adv. Ashish Shelar – ॲड. आशिष शेलार (@ShelarAshish) November 15, 2021
‘Polarisation politics ahead of state, civic elections’
Political commentator Prakash Bal told ThePrint, “Overall, this is an attempt to stoke polarisation politics, keeping various state polls of 2022 in mind, as well as the civic elections in different cities of Maharashtra.”
Amravati is scheduled to hold civic polls in 2022.
NCP president Sharad Pawar, speaking to reporters Monday, blamed “some frustrated opposition parties” for engineering violence in Maharashtra in the backdrop of upcoming assembly elections in some states, including Uttar Pradesh.
Political analyst Hemant Desai, meanwhile, said, “Covid has become a non-issue, and taking up the farmers’ agenda might backfire on the BJP due to the protests against the new farm laws. Politicisation is an issue that the BJP can use to attack the MVA government. The BJP is trying to show that the Shiv Sena is not the protector of Hindus anymore.”
Desai added, “In a way, the BJP is trying to occupy the space of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra politics. While the Shiv Sena has moved to occupy the space of the Congress with the Sena and NCP speaking in one tone against the BJP, blaming the opposition for inciting violence.”
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)
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