MUMBAI : A no-holds-barred verbal war erupted on Friday between Maharashtra's political parties and Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut for her recent statements that are viewed as denigrating the state in general and the Mumbai Police in particular.
Top leaders from the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance of Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party, Congress, and opposition Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, slammed Kangana for her remarks, while protests erupted in Mumbai and other cities against the actress.
As a huge row snowballed - in which Kangana dragged the Palghar Sadhu lynching incident, labelled Mumbai as "addicted to blood", dared the Maratha Pride of Maharashtra, alleged the existence of an "Islam-dominated" Bollywood, besides POK - an embarassed Bharatiya Janata Party, and some of its leaders who openly supported Kangana till Thursday, abruptly dumped her like a hot potato.
Amid protests by Shiv Sena activists, burning Kangana's effigy in the city and suburbs, Thane, Palghar, Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik and other cities, strong reactions from various quarters, the normally calm state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh (NCP) was ruffled enough to "strongly condemn" Ranaut's statements, albeit without taking her name.
"I strongly condemn allegations levelled by an actress on Maharashtra and Mumbai Police forces. Our police forces are brave and capable in executing their duties and maintaining law and order across the state. Whoever doesn't feel safe here has no right to live here," a grim Deshmukh said.
Senior minister Anil Parab termed Kangana's outbursts as "a conspiracy intended to shift Bollywood out of Mumbai" and said such attempts will not be tolerated.
On the other hand, advisor to CM Kishore Tiwari has alleged that Kangana is attempting to carve a political niche in the BJP by creating herself as an alternative to the party's leaders like Smriti Irani and Hema Malini.
In a sharp critique, Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant accused Kangana of acting as the "mouthpiece" of the BJP's IT Cell, by which they have insulted the 13 crore people of Maharashtra, the 106 martyrs who sacrificed themselves for the state and Queen of Jhansi, Rani Laxmibai.
"Devendra Fadnavis (Leader of Opposition) and MLA Ram Kadam are her mentors. If Kangana has information about drug peddlers, why doesn't she inform the central agencies? Why Sandip Singh made 53 calls to the BJP leaders must be probed," Sawant thundered.
MNS Chitrapat Sena President Amey Khopkar slammed the actress and said "we are eagerly waiting to welcome her" - referring to Kangana's challenge that she would reach Mumbai on Sep. 9.
"If people who have nothing to do with the city except malign it and its police force, then the Home Minister should take action or else the morale of the police force will be shaken... This entire episode will backfire on the BJP," said Sena's Sanjay Raut.
Karni Sena spokesperson Ajaisinh Seng warned that if Kangana doesn't stop her "irresponsible diatribe" against Mumbai and Maharashtra, it would go and attack her film sets whenever she shoots.
Caught unaware by the storm building against the 33-year-old actress from Himachal Pradesh, the BJP suddenly backtracked and washed its hands of the Kangana controversy.
"Kangana should not try to teach Mumbai, Mumbaikars and Maharashtra. Sanjay Raut should not attack us through Kangana Ranaut. The BJP has nothing to do with Kangana. Don't link us to her statements," BJP leader Ashish Shelar virtually implored.
Besides political leaders such as state Congress President and Minister Balasaheb Thorat, Mumbai Congress chief Eknath Gaikwad, Sena MPs Sanjay Raut, Arvind Sawant and Priyanka Chaturvedi, several Bollywood and Marathi film personalities such as Urmila Matondkar, Riteish Deshmukh, Renuka Shahane and many others have attacked Kangana for her comments.