Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Saturday backed Congress president Rahul Gandhi for the Prime Ministerial candidate in the Lok Sabha elections 2019, saying the Gandhi scion also deserves one chance like Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The MNS chief also slammed the BJP for "side-lining" its veteran leader LK Advani, who has not been given ticket from the Gandhi Nagar constituency. BJP president Amit Shah will contest on the seat in the General Elections beginning from April 11.
Addressing a gathering of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) workers at Shivaji Park in central Mumbai, Thackeray referred to a recent statement from the US which stated that all the F-16 jets in Pakistani fleet were accounted for, contrary to the Indian government's claim that one intruding jet was shot down after the Balakot aerial strike.
"Why did PM Modi lie on this? He should answer that. Modi had got such a rare opportunity, as the BJP had won the majority vote in 2014, 30 years after (late PM) Rajiv Gandhi secured such a huge mandate. What did you do in five years?" Thackeray questioned.
He also drew a parallel between the "acche din" promise and a similar slogan given by the then US President Franklin Roosevelt in 1940s and by German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Thackray also targeted the prime minister over demonestisation and reminded him of his promises.
“Narendra Modi had asked people to give him 50 days after demonitisation, and promised that things will be better. If not, he would be ready for any punishment in public square. Now that you have failed, I ask you to choose the public square, and we will come and give you the punishment,” said Thackeray.
Questioning the Pulwama terror attack on February 14 that killed 40 CRPF jawans, Thackeray asked where did the RDX come from.
“How did the Pulwama attack took place? From where the RDX came from? The borders are protected by the Army. I ask Modi how did these explosives come to India,” he said.
The MNS chief further said importance of the Congress is realised only when the party is not in power. "What (Congress president) Rahul Gandhi has said is right. PM Modi has taught us a lot. We abuse the Congress when it is in power," he said.
Thackeray, who used to praise Modi when he used to be chief minister of Gujarat before turning his fierce critic, also clarified his position.
"People ask me why did I support the PM earlier and now I criticise him. My explanation is that since the man (Modi) has changed so did my stand," he said.
"Traits of Modi and Hitler are similar. The then US president Franklin Roosevelt had also said that good days would come. Even Hitler had said the same. And now Modi is also talking about 'acche din'," he said.
Thackeray, who had announced that his party will not contest the Lok Sabha election, but campaign against the BJP-Shiv Sena combine, is expected to address five to six rallies this month. Thackeray is unlikely to formally join forces with the Congress and the NCP, but his campaigning will help the electoral cause of the grand alliance led by them, sources in these parties said.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is not a part of the grand alliance. Congress leaders Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan are contesting from the Solapur and Nanded seats respectively. NCP's Supriya Sule, Udayanraje Bhosale and Parth Pawar are in the race from Baramati, Satara and Maval constituencies respectively.
The MNS, which had unsuccessfully contested nine seats in the previous outing, had polled 7,08,010 votes -- that is 1.47 per cent of the total valid votes.
(With PTI inputs)