Tasgaon: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that he had immense respect for the late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and therefore would not criticise Shiv Sena, a statement that is seen as an attempt to blunt the Shiv Sena’s accusation that the BJP has betrayed Bal Thackeray by breaking their 25-year-old alliance.
Mr Modi, however, did not mince words while berating NCP chief Sharad Pawar, who had said Mr Modi and the BJP had suddenly woken up to the fact that Chhatrapati Shivaji was from Maharashtra.
Berating Mr Pawar for talking about Shivaji, Mr Modi said, “Pawar claims that Shivaji is of Maharashtra, but in his own Baramati constituency the statue of Shivaji is much smaller than the one we have in Surat. I want to ask Pawar what he did when he was the chief minister of Maharashtra. It was the Vajpayee government that renamed the airport in Mumbai and Victoria Terminus after Chhatrapati Shivaji.”
On Sunday, all speculation on whether the “Modi-wave” was still active was put to rest at Tasgaon as only about 20,000 people were present to hear Mr Modi’s address.
This being Mr Modi’s first rally in western Maharashtra, local leaders waited to ascertain whether the voters had turned against them in favour of Mr Modi and the BJP. However, those fears were put to rest as large parts of the ground remained vacant and a very small group of women was present.
Regardless of the empty spaces, Mr Modi started his speech in Marathi by paying his respects to Chhatrapati Shivaji and then thundered away, targeting the NCP as it was the constituency of former state home minister R.R. Patil. Questioning the work done by NCP leaders, especially party chief Mr Pawar, Mr Modi said the farmer suicides every year in the state was indicative of the fact that the former Union agriculture minister did not use his post to find a solution to the problem.
Referring to the closure of numerous sugar mills in Maharashtra, Mr Modi said there was something amiss and that this, coupled with the suicides, showed the inefficiency of the government.
“I am amazed. Pawar was the Union agriculture minister. But in his Maharashtra, around 3,700 farmers commit suicide every year,” he said.