Less than a year into the government, the ruling Shiv Sena's tolerance for criticism seems to be on the wane. After the complaint by a leader of the Eknath Shinde faction, the Aurangabad police, on Thursday, 6 April, arrested a rapper on the charges of defaming the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government.
The Ambedkarite rapper Raj Mungase, who hails from Aurangabad, had uploaded his track on YouTube on 25 March. The track takes potshots at the government's functioning while its main thrust is the circumstances in which the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance was formed after the majority of the Sena MLAs deserted former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray under the leadership of Shinde.
Mungase makes a reference to '50 khoke (boxes)' in his song, a phrase that has become a refrain for the Opposition party leaders and cadre alike, and which hints that the rebel MLAs were lured with the promise of money. He also mentions the route the rebel MLAs took with alleged assistance of the BJP, from Surat in Gujarat to Guwahati in Assam to Goa before returning to Maharashtra, which eventually led to the collapse of Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government in June 2022.
The song also calls the leaders 'thieves' and blames them for some of the manufacturing projects being shifted to Gujarat from Maharashtra.
Even though Mungase doesn't leave much to the imagination as far as his targets are concerned, he doesn't actually take the name of any party or politician in his rap.
The track went viral after it was shared approvingly by Nationalist Congress Party leader Jitendra Awhad, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sushma Andhare and other leaders on social media. Anticipating what was to come, Awhad, in his tweet on Monday, had even requested the police to not arrest Mungase.
The complaint was filed by Snehal Kamble, a leader of Shinde faction's Yuva Sena, in Thane district's Ambarnath on Tuesday. The Shivaji Nagar police in Ambarnath East registered a First Information Report under Section 501 (Printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), Section 504 (Intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace), Section 505(2) (Statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes).
This incident comes close on the heels of Shiv Sena cadre allegedly beating up Roshani Shinde, a woman leader belonging to the Thackeray faction on Monday for her social media post criticising Eknath Shinde and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Roshani Shinde was attacked by a mob of 15-20 women near a shopping centre, in which she sustained injuries and was taken to a hospital.
"These are not the teachings of Anand Dighe, these are not the teachings of Balasaheb Thackeray, that you will beat up a woman," Roshani said while speaking to mediapersons from her hospital bed.
Devendra Fadnavis 'Useless': Uddhav Thackeray
Thackeray, his wife Rashmi Thackeray and Aaditya Thackeray visited Shinde the next day. In a press conference later, he lashed out at Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister Devendra Fadnavis, calling him "useless" for not taking action against the alleged perpetrators.
"Roshani has been taking treatment to be able to conceive. She was requesting them (the attackers) to not hit on the stomach and talk from a distance. But even then she was kicked in the stomach. People who are capable of such gruesome act don't deserve to stay in not only Thane but anywhere in Maharashtra," Thackeray said.
While acknowledging that there was a verbal skirmish, Shiv Sena leaders have refuted the claims that Roshani was beaten up. "Our girls had gone to talk to that girl (Roshani) but there wasn't any physical violence there," said former mayor and Shiv Sena leader Meenakshi Shinde.