Amid the controversy over the issue of north Indian migrants in Mumbai, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi will visit the country's financial capital on Friday. During his visit, Gandhi will interact with college students, especially dalits, and is likely to address five meetings in the city.
This is Gandhi's first visit to the city since the Shiv Sena stepped up its attack against him for his statement that Mumbai belongs to all Indians.
His visit also coincides with the Shiv Sena's threat not to allow the screening of actor Shah Rukh Khan's coming film My Name is Khan in Mumbai and the rest of Maharashtra till the actor apologised for his recent statement that Pakistani cricketers should be allowed to participate in the coming Indian Premier League.Khan, who enjoys a good rapport with the Congress party and the Gandhi family in particular, has already ruled out tendering any apology in this regard.
Political analysts say Gandhi may try to take the advantage of a widening rift between the Shiv Sena and its electoral partner for over two decades, the Bharatiya Janata Party, on the issue of who is a Maharashtrian.Interestingly, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh has already asked its activists to provide a security cover to non-Maharashtrians who are under threat from the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
The Congress-led state government, which has already declared that the screening of My Name is Khan will take place under a security cover, has swung into action to make Gandhi's visit a success.One of the meetings Gandhi will attend is scheduled in the central Mumbai area, a traditional Shiv Sena bastion. The area has also been won by the MNS from the Shiv Sena during the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections last year.
Bal Thackeray's comments, many of them bordering on personal insults got a spirited reaction from the Congress."One should retire from public life after a certain age," Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said about the 84-year-old Thackeray.Referring to Thackeray's age, he said some people lose the ability to distinguish between right and wrong as they grow in years.
In a personal attack on Rahul Gandhi for his Mumbai-for-all comment, Thackeray had said in his editorial in the Sena mouthpiece Saamna that frustration sets in when a person doesn't get married despite advancing age and the Congress MP was also 'victim of this disease'.
"It seems that since Rahul won't grow any further physically, he has now grown horns and wisdom teeth to make such statements. Despite advancing age, if a person does not get married, he becomes frustrated. Even Rahul seems to be a victim of this disease and makes stupid remarks," he said.
In Varanasi, senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh said: "The Thackerays are paper tigers. There is no need to pay much attention to them." Singh said the Thackerays wanted to hog the headlines by taking to violence in front of the media for the sake of publicity."We know how courageous they are," he said.
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel was the only Union minister from Maharashtra to defend Gandhi. "Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the state government to protect the interests of each and every person who lives in Mumbai... There is no question of succumbing to these kind of pressures," he said when asked about the threat to migrants by the Shiv Sena and MNS in Mumbai.
Patel said the "social and cosmopolitan fabric" of Mumbai could not be allowed to be destroyed.