MUMBAI: Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde seems to have changed his strategy vis-a-vis Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray and attacked him for criticising the rebel Shiv Sena leaders.
Shinde, whose rebellion with 39 MLAs of Shiv Sena led to the collapse of the Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government in June, had always evaded making pointed comments against Uddhav and his son Aaditya who have been calling the rebels "traitors and backstabbers".
"Instead of responding to the criticism my work will speak for himself," he used to say.
However, speaking to Marathi news channel ABP Majha on Monday night, Shinde appeared pulling no punches.
"He should know his age and speak accordingly. What we are today is because of the late Balasaheb Thackeray and his school of thought. But he and others drifted away from Balasaheb's thought for power which forced us to take this strong step (to rebel)," Shinde said when asked about Aaditya hurling "traitor" barb against the rebel MLAs.
Aaditya, a former minister, has held several rallies in Mumbai and parts of Maharashtra to reinvigorate Shiv Sena in view of Shinde's rebellion.
Taking a cue from Shinde, his cabinet colleague Gulabrao Patil on Tuesday questioned Aaditya's stature.
"I became active in Shiv Sena when Aaditya was in a swaddle. He is just 32 now. What right does he have to criticise us? Who is he?" Patil asked.
"He can be the heir to the property of late Balasaheb or of Uddhav Thackeray but he cannot claim the (party's) legacy. We carried the saffron flag on our shoulders for 35 years, but now they are criticising us," he said without taking Aaditya's name.
Union minister Ramdas Athawale on Tuesday said the "real" Shiv Sena is the faction led by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and only it has the "moral right" to hold the party's annual Dussehra rally in Mumbai's Shivaji Park.
Mumbai's civic body has said it had received applications from the Uddhav Thackeray and Shinde-led factions of the Shiv Sena to "book" the sprawling Shivaji Park for the party's Dussehra rally in October.
The rally, arguably the most important event in the Shiv Sena's political calendar, has been taking place at Shivaji Park for several decades, but has two claimants this time due to a split in the Sena following a rebellion by Shinde in June.
Speaking to reporters in Pune, Athawale said the Shinde faction has the support of two-thirds of the Shiv Sena's elected representatives and workers and expressed the hope the ruling camp will get decisions in its favour from the Election Commission and court in matters pending before them over the party symbol and other issues.
"According to me, since the real Shiv Sena belongs to Eknath Shinde, he has the moral right to hold the Dussehra 'melava' (rally) at Shivaji Park. That moral right has slipped from the hands of (Sena president) Uddhav Thackeray," said the central minister, an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
He advised Thackeray to hold his faction's rally at BKC, a business district in suburban Bandra.
"The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will support the Shinde faction and give permission to them to hold the congregation (in Shivaji Park)," he said.
Shivaji Park in central Mumbai is closely associated with the evolution and growth of the Shiv Sena, which was founded by Bal Thackeray.
Asked about Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar meeting various opposition leaders to unite them against the BJP, Athawale asserted it was not an easy task to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Modiji and we (BJP and its allies) will keep going ahead. Let the opposition parties come together, but it is not a kid's play to confront Modiji," stated the Union minister.
He termed Kumar, who snapped ties with the BJP last month, as an "unreliable" politician and mockingly said "It was good that leaders like him and KCR (Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao) and (his West Bengal counterpart) and Mamata Banerjee are coming together. Let them come together, we are ready to confront them."
The Union minister maintained his party, the Republican Party of India (Athawale), will not contest the Lok Sabha or Assembly elections on the BJP's symbol, but will fight on its own poll symbol.