Mumbai: The Shiv Sena on Monday dubbed Congress leaders Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and his father "earthworms", following which they retaliated by calling the Shiv Sena a "black cobra" and questioned its chief's credentials.
In an edit in the party mouthpiece Saamana, the Shiv Sena demanded to know the credentials of the Leader of Opposition (Vikhe-Patil) and his 84-year-old father Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil, a former union minister of Shiv Sena, as Maratha leaders in the ongoing agitation by the community.
"The father-son duo was rotting in the Congress and tasted the benefits of a red beacon-fitted car only after joining the Shiv Sena. Otherwise, even the remote village they come from is unknown," the Sena said in a hard-hitting attack.
(The father-son duo were briefly in the Shiv Sena in the early 2000s)
Sena President Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday tendered an apology to the Maratha community over an objectionable cartoon in Saamana.
The edit added that but for the Sena, the Vikhe-Patils would have been like ordinary, seasonal "earthworms" who could never become or hiss like snakes or 'sheshnag' (multi-headed mythical snake).
In a sharp retort, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil called the Shiv Sena a black cobra that did nothing but spread poison and divisions in politics.
"They are forgetting that 'Krishna' is in my name. Their public mandate is over now... That is why they had to apologise to the Marathas. We will make it difficult for them to even move around in Maharashtra," the Congress leader said in a statement late Monday evening.
Vikhe-Patil said they are "friends of the farmers" which, he added, Thackeray did not know since he doesn't know farming.
"At least, I have a remote native village. What about Thackeray? Where does he come from? Is he even originally from Maharashtra?" the Congress leader asked.
"Now that Thackeray feels the earth slipping from under his feet, he hurriedly apologised to 'mothers and sisters', but not the entire Maratha community. He was scared by the belated wisdom that the Marathas might boycott his annual Dassehra rally," he said.
The latest round of name-calling comes in the wake of a cartoon in Saamana and its sister publication in Hindi, Dopahar ka Saamana, last Sunday in which the Marathas were ridiculed.
The Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party and powerful Maratha groups demanded a public apology from Thackeray, which he tendered after a similar apology by the cartoonist.
The cartoonist's apology came after some Sambhaji Brigade activists attacked Saamana Group's printing press and editorial offices with stones and ink respectively last week.