Mumbai, (The Hindu): With the BJP aiming for more than 360 seats in the Lok Sabha in the next general election, the Shiv Sena has set its sights on doubling its tally of MPs.
In a meeting with party functionaries at the Sena Bhavan on Friday, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray asked cadres to begin Lok Sabha poll preparations. “Forget everything else and start preparing to double the party’s tally of 18 in the next general election, be it mid-term or in 2019. The BJP did not take us in confidence while deciding on its ‘Mission 360-plus’ plan.”
Allegations and counter-allegations by district-level Sainiks State Cabinet Ministers flew thick and fast at the meeting, where district heads accused Ministers of neglecting the party’s interests. The Ministers said Mr. Thackeray is apprised of every decision they take, and the work they do.
Three days ago, a similar incident marred a party-organised public event, when Haji Arafat Sheikh, who heads the Sena’s transport wing, accused State Transport Minister Diwakar Raote of singling him out and not doing anything for the Sainiks. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Mr. Thackeray sought to play down the incident while ruling out infighting. “There is no division of opinion or infighting in the Shiv Sena. We have to start preparations for the next polls by keeping the past aside.”
Area-wise poll responsibilities were also allocated to party leaders: Mr. Raote will handle Vidarbha, Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam gets Marathwada, Lok Sabha MP Gajanan Kirtikar was given Western Maharashtra. Industries Minister Subhash Desai will be in charge of Konkan and Thane, while Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut was named for North Maharashtra.
In recent times, Mr. Thackeray has rarely passed up an opportunity to take potshots at Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his government’s farm loan waiver scheme, and Friday was no different. “Till now, over 10 lakh valid forms have been submitted to the government. We hope the number of forms don’t exceed the actual number of farmers,” he said, tongue firmly in cheek. The Sena chief also demanded that details of all 79 lakh farmers who stand to benefit from the scheme be put on record, so that his party can check them.
He didn’t spare Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar as well, who had said he will be back as the Union Defence Minister if he loses the bye-election in Goa. Mr. Parrikar, an MP, had quit as Defence Minister and taken over as Goa CM, but needs to be elected to the State’s Legislative Assembly or Council to continue.
“Yesterday, CM [Fadnavis] said granting absolute loan waivers will lead to anarchy, but when the country is staring at a war, appointing a defeated candidate as Defence Minister will definitely create anarchy,” Mr. Thackeray said.
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