In what came as a major shock amidst the show of strength of Siv Sena-NCP-Congress leaders on Monday, the Samajwadi Party legislator Abu Azmi was present and prominently found a place between Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and party’s motormouth Sanjay Raut at Mumbai’s Grand Hyatt Hotel where the trio had gathered to display their party’s strength on Monday.
Shockingly, Shiv Sena members who had once threatened SP MLA Abu Azmi for insulting their founder and mentor Balasaheb Thackeray has now found a friend in him.
Abu Azmi was seated at the front row, alongside Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Balasaheb Thorat and Sena’s Sanjay Raut. The SP MLA took an oath with the leaders and MLAs of the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance of Sena, NCP and Congress.
Amidst the ongoing power tussle in Maharashtra, the NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena on Monday demonstrated a show of strength at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Mumbai. In the meeting, all leaders and MLAs of NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress took an oath swearing loyalty for Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackerey in the presence of media.
Speaking to news agency ANI after the oath-taking at Hotel Grand Hyatt, he said he extended his support after orders from Samajwadi party chief Akhilesh Yadav. “After approval from the party chief Akhilesh Yadav, I have given a letter showing the support of SP for Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance,” he said.
Interestingly, he is the same man who was in loggerheads with Shiv Sena in 2009 when MNS lawmakers had beaten him black and blue for taking oath in Hindi and not Marathi. Making a sharp criticism of Azmi, Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray also wrote about him in a Saamna editorial. Answering back, Azmi had, back then, called Thackeray old and senile.
This statement against their founder and mentor had provoked the Sainik’s, who had then threatened the Samajwadi Party leader inside the Maharashtra Assembly premises. Sena MLAs had reportedly stopped and surrounded Azmi’s car and warned him against commenting on Thackeray.
So staunch was the animosity between the two-party stalwarts that in the year 2000, Azmi had faced two years of rigorous imprisonment for allegedly delivering provocative speeches against Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and the then Sena leader Narayan Rane.
Interestingly, Azmi had in 2014 made similar vailed attacks on NCP chief Sharad Pawar for then offering outside support to BJP government in Maharashtra. The Samajwadi Party leader had alleged that the move was intended to keep under wraps the NCP leader’s “corrupt dealings”.
Apart from being Shiv Sena’ arch-rival, the Samajwadi Party legislator Abu Azmi has an extremely intriguing past. Following the serial bomb blasts of March 1993 in Mumbai, he was arrested under TADA for his alleged role in the blast. He was accused of providing air tickets to some of the conspirators who fled the city. Azmi had, however, denied the charge and successfully challenged his detention. He was acquitted by the then chief justice of the Supreme Court Justice Ahmadi even as many of the accused stayed in detention.
Chhota Rajan, who had got some of the blasts accused gunned down had also targeted Azmi, however, changed his plans at the last moment.
In fact, Azmi was the one who had met Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao regarding the Yakub Memon case in 2015 and voiced his disapproval against the capital punishment provided to the convict in one of the most dreaded serial bomb blasts in India which had claimed over 257 lives.
Moreover, in 2010, Indian Mujahideen member Shahzad, an accused in the 2008 Delhi blasts case and the Batla House encounter, had named Abu Azmi as one of the two politicians who had helped in carrying out the attacks.
Shiv Sena and NCP’s promptness to forget the past and join hands with not only one of its arch-rivals but also a man with such a contentious past simply goes on to manifest that in politics, there is nothing like permanent friends or enemies, just permanent interests.