Raj Thackeray Won’t Get Political Benefit from Loudspeaker Row, Says Athawale

Union minister Ramdas Athawale on Thursday slammed MNS chief Raj Thackeray over his call for the removal of loudspeakers from mosques and said the MNS leader will not get any political benefit from his “hard stand” on the issue. Addressing a press conference here, the Republican Party of India (A) chief also said the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government “failed” to present its case in the Supreme Court over the OBC quota issue.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Thackeray had earlier given an ultimatum to the state government to remove loudspeakers from mosques by May 3. He had urged people to play Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers on Wednesday wherever they hear loudspeakers “blaring azaan (Islamic prayer call)”.

Athawale, whose party is an ally of the BJP-led NDA, said there is no need to take any unjust stand over loudspeakers. “With this stand, Raj Thackeray will not gain any political benefit. He has been putting forth different stands, but has never received any political benefits,” he said. He advised Thackeray not to create a rift in society by taking such a “hard stand”.

Athawale further claimed that Raj Thackeray, after leaving the Shiv Sena, “included colours like blue, white, green and saffron in his party flag, but he has now suddenly adopted the saffron colour and is trying to create a dispute in society”. “Saffron is not a colour which creates dispute, it resolves disputes. The saffron colour symbolises peace,” the Union social justice and empowerment minister said.

Asked if Raj Thackeray was copying late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, Athawale said the MNS chief cannot imitate Balasaheb because the latter was a “different kind of leader”. On Raj Thackeray’s claim of NCP chief Sharad Pawar being a “casteist”, the RPI(A) leader said Pawar personally was not a casteist. But, some NCP members were casteist, he said.

Athawale also hit out at the Maharashtra government over the issue of quota for the Other Backward Classes and said the Shiv Sena-led dispensation had failed to present its case in the Supreme Court, be it the issue of reservation for Marathas or the OBCs. “Now, it is the responsibility of this government to give reservation to both,” he said.

Athawale said if the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress) in Maharashtra falls, the BJP-led alliance is ready to form a government. “Even if the MVA government does not fall, the ‘mahayuti’ (grand alliance) led by the BJP is confident of coming to power in the state in 2024,” he added. Athawale also said Congress should withdraw support from the MVA, claiming there was disappointment in the party over its MLAs being sidelined. The RPI(A) leader also expressed confidence that in the next Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-led NDA will win over 400 seats (out of the total 543).

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