Maha: A year after revolt two Senas observe ‘Traitors Day’, ‘Self-Respect Day’

While the Shiv Sena (UBT) led by former CM Uddhav Thackeray observed 'Traitors Day', CM Eknath Shinde marked it as 'Self-Respect Day'.

Mumbai: Rancour, protests and accusations marked the first anniversary of the revolt in the Shiv Sena as rival camps in Maharashtra on Tuesday observed ‘Traitors Day’ and ‘Self-Respect Day’ as per their perception of a rebellion that shook the 57-year-old party and toppled a government.

The Shiv Sena (UBT) led by former CM Uddhav Thackeray observed ‘Traitors Day’ and vented its anger against the rebel MLAs, while the ruling faction of the outfit headed by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde marked it as ‘Self-Respect Day’ and invoked the legacy of party founder Bal Thackeray.

The two rival Senas took over each other a day after the party’s 57th foundation day celebrations which saw Thackeray and Shinde holding separate events in Mumbai and trading charges.

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The Bal Thackeray-founded outfit vertically split after the last year’s revolt which also led to the collapse of the three-party Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government that consisted of the united Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress.

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut has written a letter to the United Nations, urging it to declare June 20 as ‘World Traitors (Gaddar) Day’ to mark the desertion of the party by 40 Shiv Sena MLAs, including Shinde, who led the revolt and later took over as chief minister with the BJP’s support.

In the letter to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Raut said on June 20, 2022, a group of 40 legislators from the Shiv Sena broke away from the party after being “instigated” by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Each of them is said to have taken Rs 50 crore to defect, said Raut in the letter, a claim rubbished by the legislators who switched loyalty.

The letter dated June 19 was tweeted by the Rajya Sabha MP on Tuesday.

Shiv Sena (UBT) workers staged ‘Traitors Day’ protests in Sangli, Dhule, Ahmednagar, Nashik, Beed, Latur, Pune, Kolhapur and Nagpur, among other cities, police said.

Party workers also gave slogans of “khoke diwas”, alleging money power played a role in the revolt.
One khokha (or box) means a crore colloquially.

Responding to a question from reporters, Thackeray hit out at the rival camp, asserting “traitors” will always be “traitors” and this tag will never be erased.

On June 20 last year, a group of Shiv Sena MLAs, under the leadership Shinde, revolted against Thackeray’s leadership. They first left for Surat in Gujarat, then went to Guwahati in Assam and finally to Goa (all three states are ruled by the BJP) before coming back to Mumbai where Shinde took oath as Chief Minister on June 30, 2022, with the BJP’s support, capping 10 days of high-voltage political drama.

The count of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs stood at 40 and they had garnered the support of 10 other legislators from smaller parties and Independents. The united Shiv Sena had won 56 seats in the 2019 Assembly polls.

Earlier this year, the Election Commission of India allotted the original party name and the ‘bow and arrow’ symbol to the Shinde camp, while the Thackeray-led faction came to be known as the Shiv Sena (UBT) with flaming torch’ as its symbol.

The Shiv Sena led by Shinde hit back at the Thackeray camp over its repeated “traitors” jibe and accused it of dishonouring the mandate of the 2019 Assembly polls.

Shiv Sena minister Uday Samant said those who betrayed the mandate are celebrating ‘Traitors Day’, a reference to the Thackeray-led undivided party which contested the 2019 Assembly polls with the BJP and later joined hands with the Congress and the NCP, its ideological opponents.

“Balasaheb Thackeray taught everyone about self-respect. It was Balasaheb who advised us never to sit on the Congress lap. We protected Balasaheb’s self-respect so it is Swabhimaan Din for us and those who betrayed the mandate, it is Traitors Day for them,” Samant said.

“To protect our self-respect, Shinde saheb revolted and we, 40 MLAs participated in it. We are proud of it,” Samant told reporters.

Leaders and workers of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), an ally of the Shiv Sena (UBT), also observed Traitors Day in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra to mark the first anniversary of the rebellion in the Shiv Sena.

Led by NCP working president and Lok Sabha member Supriya Sule, the party activists in Mumbai shouted slogans and carried symbolic “khoke” (cartons) to claim the rebel legislators took money to change loyalty.

In Nagpur, NCP workers staged a demonstration at Variety Square and shouted slogans against legislators of the Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

The Supreme Court last month ruled that then-Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari was not justified in calling upon chief minister Uddhav Thackeray to prove a majority in the Assembly on June 30, 2022.

A constitutional bench had also observed that it cannot restore the Thackeray government as he resigned without facing a floor test.

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