Raj Thackeray puts off Ayodhya trip in political setback for MNS

Mumbai, May 20 : In a self-inflicted political blow, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray on Friday morning tersely announced that he has temporarily "postponed" his proposed visit to Ayodhya on June 5. He himself made the announcement via social media but didn't spell out any reasons for the move, leading to wild speculations in political circles. MNS spokesperson Sandip Deshpande and party leader Bala Nandgaonkar were at a loss to explain what actually prompted the unexpected decision, but assured that Raj Thackeray will enlighten the people about it at his planned public rally in Pune on Sunday. Adding to the MNS' awkwardness, ruling Maha Vikas allies' leaders like Shiv Sena's Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray and state Congress President Nana Patole announced that their upcoming tours for 'darshan' of Ram Lalla would proceed as per schedule and their trips would be "non-political". Taking a swipe at the MNS chief, Shiv Sena chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut said that he heard about it from the media, "but we would have supported him". "There's a large number of Shiv Sainiks and Sena supporters in Ayodhya, and we would have supported him... He is being used by the Bharatiya Janata Party, but some people get delayed wisdom," he said. Nationalist Congress Party spokesperson Clyde Crasto expressed hope that Raj Thackeray would now realise how he was being exploited by the BJP politically. "They propped him to propagate their agenda and when their message was delivered, they have cut him down to size. He was used as a pawn and he allowed himself to be used to revive his failed political career," he claimed. Congress General Secretary Sachin Sawant squarely blamed the BJP for Raj Thackeray's current predicament. "First, the BJP pumped up air into him, but when it feared that the Hindutva vote-bank would be divided, they snipped him off," he said. Sena MoS and spokesperson Kishore Tiwari alleged that the BJP-MNS and Rana couple were competing to prove whose Hindutva brand is the worst and Raj Thackeray got trapped in their machinations. "He had harassed North Indians and when the BJP felt this cannot continue as it would have repercussions (in the upcoming civic elections), they ejected him... Anyways, his planned Ayodhya trip was purely political as there people have nothing to do with religion or Hindutva," he added. Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis merely said: "Raj has postponed his visit now, but whenever he plans to go there, he will be given full support and nobody will touch him." Raj Thackeray's abrupt decision came amid massive protests by certain BJP leaders and activists in Uttar Pradesh and other northern states opposing his Ayodhya trip. They have been vociferously demanding his unconditional apology for the treatment meted out to North Indians in the MNS agitation in 2008. The anti-Raj Thackeray protests were spearheaded by Uttar Pradesh BJP MP Brijbhushan Sharan Singh who warned that unless he apologises, lakhs of his supporters would block his entry to Ayodhya. Though Raj Thackeray has not revealed anything, there's speculation that the postponement may have been due to health reasons, but MNS leaders declined comments. Back in Uttar Pradesh, Brijbhushan Sharan Singh dismissed the MNS claims of "postponement due to illness" and asserted that Raj Thackeray has "cancelled" his trip, and vowed to continue his agitation till the MNS chief tenders an apology. Earlier, apprehending threats, MNS' Nandgaonkar had called on Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil and demanded security for Raj Thackeray either from the state government or the Centre. Simultaneously, he warned that "even if a hair of Raj was harmed, Maharashtra would burn", though preparations for the Ayodhya trip continued. Since a month, Raj Thackeray has been in the limelight after he launched an agitation demanding removal of loudspeakers from all mosques in the state failing which his activists would blare Hanuman Chalisa at double-decibel levels. /IANS


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