Shiv Sena takes on Narendra Modi in latest Saamana editorial

Photo: Rafiq Maqbool/AP

The scathing editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece takes a dig at the ruling BJP and the Prime Minister.

In an editorial headlined Applause, plates and lamps: This is how we lose the battle, Saamana took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his addresses to the nation. The Marathi daily published out of Mumbai has been an important tool in spreading Shiv Sena’s propaganda. Founded by Bal Thackeray in 1988, who also served as its editor, the paper’s editorials have often been seen as an indicator of the mood inside Matoshree, the Thackeray residence as also the general direction of the wind in state politics. A scathing editorial, therefore, is a good indication of how the Sena leadership feels about its former ally, the Bharatiya Janta Party.

The editorial says that even though the prime minister had requested people to not step out of their homes and pay their tribute in silence for nine minutes, there had been instances of people gathering in groups with no regard for social distancing. Pointing to the various antics that have gone viral since Sunday evening – including an unknown man’s failed attempt at being a fire-thrower – the editorial says that the prime minister has either failed in communicating effectively with the people or that he wants this festive atmosphere.

“It would seem that the Prime Minister’s message didn’t reach the people properly, else the incidents on Sunday wouldn’t have occurred in the first place. While people did indeed turn off their light, crowds began gathering on the streets with torches. Social distancing, which is crucial in the fight against coronavirus had been ignored.”

The editorial continued, remarking that the US President Donald Trump had sought medicines from Modi and not plates, bells, conch shells and lamps. It also drew parallels to the Third Battle of Panipat where the Marathas lost due to “confusion and lack of planning”.

But in what may well be the most significant remark from a right-wing Hindutva party, the Saamana editorial said that it wasn’t just those who attended the Markaz (Tablighi Jamaat’s conference) that weren’t following the roles and questioned how what discipline are those who’re blaming the Markaz attendees following.

Much of this is in line with Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s addresses to the state in which he has warned people against giving the pandemic a communal angle. Thackeray’s addresses have been garnering a lot of praise across the political spectrum. The Shiv Sena Chief has earned accolades for being clear in his messages and a picture of calm. In what seem like unscripted speeches, delivered without a teleprompter, Thackeray has been reassuring, self-deprecating and even relatable. In his first address after the Prime Minister’s announcement of the 21-day lockdown, Thackeray had remarked that he too, like everyone else, had been confused after listening to the speech and that he’d reached out to the PM to seek clarification regarding essential services and proceeded to assure the citizens of Maharashtra that the granaries were full and essential supplies wouldn’t be hampered.