Ever since the formation of Maha Vikas Aghadi, Shiv Sena’s saffron is rapidly turning into green perhaps under pressure from its new allies – INC and NCP. In yet another example of how Shiv Sena is rapidly changing its colours, its leader Pandurang Sakpal, not only likened Azaan with the Hindu ritual of aarti but also suggested to hold an Azaan recital competition for Muslim children, thereby sparking a row.
In yet another example of how unrecognisable the Shiv Sena has become since the days of Balasaheb Thackeray, the party’s vibhag pramukh (division head) of Mumbai South,Pandurang Sakpal stirred a hornet’s nest during his interview with an Urdu news portal.
“Competitions are held for recital of Bhagwadgita. I have asked my colleague Shakil Ahmed to hold a ‘Azaan’ competition for children. I feel it is like ‘aarti’. Late Balasaheb Thackeray (founder of Sena) was not against any religion. Even (chief minister and party president) Uddhav Thackeray takes all communities along,”said Sakpal during his interview.
Reportedly, Sakpal during the interview ca also be heard saying that due to his proximity to a cemetery in South Mumbai, he finds the recital of Azaan ‘very nice’ and he likes to listen to it.
As the controversy erupted, Sakpal claimed that his comments were misconstrued with Sena spokesman and state transport minister Anil Parab distancing himself from the controversy as he claimed that he wasn’t aware of Sakpal’s comments.
“Sakpal’s comments speak volumes of the change in the party to remain in power,” said Pravin Darekar, BJP MLC and Leader of Opposition in the state Legislative Council.
While the Sena attempted to distance itself from Sakpal’s comments, its allies in the Maharashtra government welcomed his comments.
“Competitions for reciting Bhagwadgita had been held in Maharashtra in which Muslim girls had won prizes. What is wrong with an Azaan competition?,” said senior NCP leader and state Minister for Minority Development, Nawab Malik. Whereas, Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant claimed that people filled with hatred cannot “understand the beauty of conversation between man and God.”
Sakpal’s comments come close on the heels of Uddhav Thackeray’s mocking of Hindu sensitivities with Gaumutra jibe during his annual Dussehra address.
During his address to the Shiv Sena Dussehra Mela, Uddhav referred to the BJP as an entity whose mouth and clothes stink of gaumutra (cow urine) and gobar (cow dung), as the Maharashtra Chief Minister took to single-handedly destroying even Sena’s pretence of being a Hindutvawaadi party any longer.
Uddhav Thackeray in his condescending tone towards the BJP and Hindus at large, said, “Those who cast aspersions on our government, themselves have their mouths filled with cow-dung and Gaumutra. They have been trying to sling cow-dung at us, in a desperate hope that it will stick but it did not because we are clean. It is them whose mouth and clothes reek of Gaumutra and cow-dung.”
It must be remembered that for many Hindus, gaumutra is sacred. For someone who still claims to stand for and follow Hindutva, it becomes a bit rich to take jibes at a political opponent using references to things which are held sacred by a majority of Indians; Hindus in particular.
It seems that the Shiv Sena will leave no stone unturned to assure their masters in Baramati and 10 Janpath of their new found secular credentials.