BJP MLA Atul Bhatkhalkar circulated a video claiming that it showed Memon’s “relative” Rauf Memon attending a meeting with Sena leader and former Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar.
Uddhav’s aide Harshal Pradhan hit back sharing a photograph purportedly showing the same Rauf Memon with the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis and Chandrakant Patil.
Earlier, the BJP claimed that Memon’s grave was “beautified” when the coalition government led by Uddhav was in power in Maharashtra. The Sena then hit back saying it was the BJP-led Central government that had handed over Memon’s body to his relatives.
The authorities maintaining the graveyard have denied any “beautification”, while removing some LED lights set up around Menon’s grave.
The issue is being kept alive by both sides ahead of the coming BMC polls, where the party that can establish itself as representative of “real Hindutva” may well walk away with the cash-rich corporation. The BJP sees a good chance as a big chunk of the Sena, led by Eknath Shinde, is now its ally, and Uddhav’s climb to the mantle is even steeper.
The BJP was the first to seize upon a media report on renovation of a kabrastan (graveyard) where Memon was buried. With the BMC controlled by the Thackerays and Sena for years, it asked how it could happen under the party’s nose.
Initially taken aback, the Uddhav Sena and its allies NCP and Congress quickly got their act together. They pointed out that first, the graveyard was run by a trust and not the BMC, and second, it was a BJP-led government with Devendra Fadnavis as CM that had in 2015 let Memon be buried there.
The reference was to apprehensions expressed by some quarters over handing over of Memon’s body to his family.
Apart from painting the Uddhav Sena as “pro-Muslim” given the allies it has now, the BJP gambit also appears to be to force it into an extremist position, which would deter minorities from flocking to it. Sources said that the BJP’s reading is that, the Muslims, who are in substantial numbers in many BMC wards, might see the Uddhav Sena as the only choice to stop the BJP.
A combination of Muslim plus its core Hindu base, even if divided, would put the Uddhav Sena in a good position. The Thackerays are also expected to retain a big part of their traditional Maratha pride vote, which they are counting on. Apart from the Shinde Sena, the BJP is also expected to use the MNS and Raj Thackeray to chip away at this traditional vote bank.
As part of this tussle for the Hindutva-Marathi vote, the BJP recently ran a campaign claiming that the return of its government meant a return to grand celebration of “Hindu festivals”, with the Shinde-Fadnavis government lifting the limits on the height of the Dahi Handi pyramids as well as the size of the Ganesh festival idols.
The NCP Saturday took a swipe over this, releasing a press note heaving a sigh of relief that CM Shinde could now concentrate on government administration since the Ganesh festival was over.
Yakub Memon was one of the Memon brothers convicted for being a prime conspirator in the 1993 serial blasts, that had led to more than 250 deaths.