Mumbai: As the press and office of Saamana daily in Navi Mumbai and Thane were attacked following publication of a cartoon by the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, all major political parties on Tuesday engaged in a slugfest over the issue of job reservation for the powerful Maratha community in the state.
Leader of Opposition in the assembly and Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil demanded an unconditional public apology from Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray, while state Congress President Ashok Chavan termed the cartoon an "insult to Maratha brothers and sisters".
"The Shiv Sena has always been anti-Muslims and anti-Dalits; now they are even going against the Maratha community. All Marathas are extremely agitated by the cartoon which has not spared even the martyrs of the recent Uri terror strike," said Vikhe-Patil.
Nationalist Congress Party's Leader of Opposition in the Council Dhanjay Munde also criticised the Saamana cartoon and sought an apology from the publication.
"The Shiv Sena has ridiculed a grave issue like Maratha reservation. They have insulted millions of Maratha women who have been spontaneously taking part in the processions all over the state in the past few days. The Shiv Sena must apologise to them," Chavan said.
Interestingly, the Bharatiya Janata Party's Mumbai President Ashish Shelar said the cartoon was in "bad taste" and added that Saamana's Executive Editor and MP Sanjay Raut himself has been reduced to a "cartoon" in the entire episode.
The BJP and Shiv Sena are ruling allies in Maharashtra and at the Centre.
Reacting to the developments, the Shiv Sena fielded its senior Cabinet minister Subhash Desai who flayed the Congress and the NCP for what he said was fuelling the ongoing pro-reservation agitation among the Marathas all over the state.
"They ruled the state for 15 years, but did nothing for Maratha reservation. They created a farce of reservation, which was later struck down by the courts," Desai said in a sharp reaction late on Tuesday.
He said Thackeray has fully supported the ongoing Maratha agitation and even Sanjay Raut had backed it through his writings in Saamana, but it is the Vikhe-Munde duo which is spoiling the peaceful atmosphere in the state.
Unidentified persons allegedly belonging to the Sambhaji Brigade pelted stones at the Saamana printing press in Navi Mumbai while some other persons threw ink outside the Thane office of the Shiv Sena mouthpiece on Tuesday.