Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Monday mouthed the Congress' oft-repeated jibe of "chowkidar chor hai" made in the context of the Rafale fighter jet deal to mount a veiled attack on his senior ally -- the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi has been repeatedly hurling the "chowkidar chor hai" (the guard is a thief) jibe at Modi to claim irregularities and favouritism in the Rafale deal and award of offset contracts related to the Rs 580-billion defence agreement with France. However, the government has rejected the charges.
Addressing a rally in this temple town in Solapur district, Thackeray used the slogan in a different context while narrating an incident.
Thackeray said, "In one of the state tours, a farmer showed me a pest-infested lime tree. The lime tree is actually used to make pesticides but this was a plant that was infested with pest."
"The farmer told me that for the first time in his lifetime, he had seen a lime tree getting infested, which they have been using to make pesticides. I had told him that now, days have changed. Security persons have become thieves."
"Halli paharekarich chorya karaylaa laagale aahet. (Today, security persons have themselves become thieves)," he said in Marathi.
'Paharekari' is a Marathi equivalent of the Hindi word chowkidar.
Thackeray, whose outfit is part of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and also in Maharashtra, did not take any names, but the significance of his comments was not lost on anyone.
Thackeray and his party have been often criticising the BJP and its top leaders, including Modi, on a range of issues. However, this was perhaps for the first time a BJP ally has publicly made the "chowkidar chor hai" taunt.
The origin of this line dates back to the run-up of the 2014 general elections when Modi had promised to work as a 'chowkidar' to guard the people's money and their trust once elected to the top office.
At the rally, Thackeray also said "There have been several allegations over the Rafale fighter jet deal and I do not know how the Supreme Court has given a clean cheat. But I know the Modi government has refused pay hike for jawans."