Mumbai, Oct 12 (IANS) Under siege from the continuous onslaught of the Opposition Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), several of its leaders have been targeted with police cases by the Maharashtra government of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde-Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Among them are a Sena (UBT) MP Vinayak Raut, a deputy leader Sushma Andhare and MLA Bhaskar Jadhav, besides other leaders, following complaints by Dattaram Gavas, an activist of Shinde’s Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena.
Raut has been booked for ridiculing the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Union MSME Minister Narayan Rane whom he referred to as ‘kombdi chor’ (chicken thief) at a public rally in Thane this week, ruffling feathers.
Jadhav has been slapped with a case for aping Shinde’s style of reading out a prepared speech at his October 5 Dussehra Rally in Bandra Kurla Complex.
Andhare, has also been booked — for mimicking Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promises of giving employment to two crore youths — at a Thane meeting.
In a statement on the October 9 meeting, the Naupada Police Station (Thane) has named other local level leaders and activists like Anita Birje, Madhukar Deshmukh, Sachin Chavan, and Dharmarajya Party’s Rajan Raje.
Accordingly, the police have charged them under various sections of Indian Penal Code for inflammatory speech, using objectionable language, attempts to incite passions and sullying the image of CM Shinde, etc.
Sena (UBT) leaders have cried foul over the police action, terming it as a ‘political vendetta’ intended to “silence and destroy the Opposition”.
Senior farmers leader of the Sena (UBT) Kishore Tiwari said that the Shinde-Fadnavis government is “selectively targetting” party’s leaders who raise their voice against the regime to demoralise the party rank-and-file.
“Does the government have the courage to throw them in jail like other Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) leaders? How many Opposition leaders will they imprison… This is blatant misuse of power and harassment of those who oppose them,” said Tiwari grimly.
Condemning the development, Nationalist Congress Party Chief Spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said that “the validity of this (Shinde-Fadnavis) government is still pending before the Supreme Court”, and the Opposition leaders have a fundamental right to criticise the government’s shortcomings.
“Under such circumstances, such police actions are anti-democracy and the government is trying to brow-beat the Opposition and silence them from speaking out,” Tapase added sharply.
Strongly flaying the police cases, veteran Sena (UBT) union leader Dr. Raghunath Kuchik said that the Shinde-Fadnavis government has “crossed all limits of political decency” by targeting political opponents.
“When the BJP was in the Opposition, they used foul language against the Maha Vikas Aghadi CM (Uddhav Thackeray), other ministers and party leaders, but we did not hound them with flimsy cases… The government should withdraw these police cases,” demanded Dr. Kuchik.
Congress state general secretary Sachin Sawant said this was another example of how the BJP muzzles the Opposition parties all over India.
“Although the language used by the BJP leaders is extremely derogatory and abusive, no action is taken against them. Two sets of laws are vividly seen currently, one for the bjp leaders and the other for the opposition which is extremely unfortunate,” rued Sawant.
An unfazed Andhare said that if speaking the truth is an offence, then she was ready to face all the consequences of the police case lodged against her, but would continue to raise her voice against any injustice to the people.
Though both Andhare and Jadhav said they had received no communication from the police, they said whatever they spoke is in the public domain, even as the Thane Police continues its probe.
Earlier, Thane MP Rajan Vichare had alleged that the police were under pressure from CM Shinde and even people who attended Thackeray’s Dussehra Rally (October 5) at Shivaji Park last week were being served notices or facing cases.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org)