Until recently, Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana had championed Anna Hazare and his unique fight against corruption. Then, for some inexplicable reason, on Monday and Tuesday, it ran a tirade against the crusader, suggesting he was downright corrupt. But possibly sensing the drift of public sentiment, by afternoon, the party had done a complete U-turn, expressing its support once again at a hurried convened press conference at Sena Bhavan in Dadar.
Speaking on the occasion, Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray announced that his party now completely supported Hazare's campaign against corruption and also the ongoing agitation. Yet just a day ago, Sanjay Raut, editor of Saamana and a Rajya Sabha member, had slammed Anna in his edit piece. In hard-hitting words, Raut declared that Anna himself was most corrupt. Raut referred to Ralegan Siddhi, the hometown of Anna, as the Gangotri of corruption and suggested that he start his fight against corruption from that destination. Raut had also expressed doubts over Hazare's claim of having the support of the masses and challenged him to contest elections to prove his popularity.
However, the mammoth support garnered by Team Anna reportedly sent shivers through the Sena rank and file, and within hours, the leadership decided to reverse gears and support Anna and his agitation. At the press conference Uddhav said, “The party had always supported the Gandhian activist in the past.The Centre is inhumanely crushing voices of the valid cause. Any one who questions it is either shot at or lands up in jail.This government is taking the name ofMahatma Gandhi but followingMussolini.” He exhibited an old copy of Saamana to prove his claims of support and exhorted all parties to come together to protest against Hazare’s detention.
Asked about the offending editorial inMonday’s paper,Uddhav put on a brave face and said evasively, “The last time when Hazare launched an agitation against corruption, the Sena was the first to support it.We are very much a part of the war against corruption. A way out can be found out through consensus. Butwhat the government is doing is certainly not the way. Our stance is that all opposition parties should come together to pull down this government”.
When questioned about the Sena's opposition to some of the provisions of the Lokpal Bill,Thackeray again evaded a direct reply by saying that all such issues can be discussed at a later stage. “We condemnHazare’s arrest. If the government is going to behave as if it is an emergency-like situation, then this government has no right to continue in power,” he added.