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Raj buries feud, hails Bachchan as India’s brand ambassador

MNS chief Raj Thackeray with Amitabh Bachchan at an event in Mumbai. (Express Photo: Vasant Prabhu)

Burying their acrimonious past, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray and actor Amitabh Bachchan shared dais on Monday at a function to mark the seventh anniversary of Maharashtra Navnirman Chitrapat Sena (MNCS), the MNS’s wing that works for the welfare of cine artistes.

Letting “bygones be bygones”, Thackeray not only declared Bachchan as an ambassador of India but also generously praised him for his command of Hindi language. He was speaking at the function held at Shanmukhananda Hall, where the actor had been invited as the chief guest.

Relations between the MNS chief and the Bollywood icon have been tense for the past five years ever since Thackeray had criticised the actor for agreeing to become brand ambassador of states like Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. The MNS had also stepped up its attack on Bachchans after the actor’s wife Jaya Bachchan said at a public function that being from Uttar Pradesh, she would prefer to speak in Hindi instead of Marathi. Jaya’s remarks had come at a time when MNS’s anti-migrants campaign was at its peak.

Sounding a conciliatory note, Thackeray said, “What happened at that time was not a problem at a personal level. He is India’s brand ambassador, and not of any state. The love that is bestowed on him by a man from Allahabad is the same kind of adulation a man from Maharashtra feels for him.”

“The entire country loves icons like Bachchan and Lata Mangeshkar. They are God’s gift to us. They should, however, not involve themselves in such things (regionalism). For such small things, we are there,” Thackeray said, adding he was happy and thankful that the actor had decided to grace the function.

“He came for the programme. I am thankful to him. Whatever happened in the past has been immersed in the Ganga. Incidentally, Ganga is in Uttar Pradesh, but we love the river as well,” the MNS chief said.

… contd.

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