"We have started removing the advertisements in view of the discussions held yesterday in the BEST Committee meeting. These ads were released through a contractor for about 200 buses in all the 26 depots, they (ads) will be removed over the next few days," said a top official, requesting anonymity.
The MNS took umbrage at the ads by the Gujarat-based Sandesh Newspapers Ltd, heralding its new Mumbai edition in Gujarati, "Sandesh". The ad proclaimed: "Who is responsible for Mumbai's financial and intellectual development? We Gujaratis..."
Questioning this blanket credit claimed by Sandesh, the MNS group leader in BEST Sandeep Deshpande said the Gujaratis' financial contribution was true to an extent, but the intellectual development was due to stalwarts like the late Bal Thackeray and Jagannath Shankerseth.
He said these ads hurt the sentiments of Mumbaikars, and demanded their immediate withdrawal, which the BEST started doing early Saturday.
Defending the ad campaign, Sandesh Newspapers Ltd. managing director Parthiv Patel said it only spoke about the achievements of the Gujaratis living in Mumbai.
MNS leader: Ad hurt the sentiments of Mumbaikars
"We mean no disrespect nor have anything against any community living in Mumbai. Moreover, India is a largest democracy in the world and the stand taken by the political parties is not only against Sandesh, Gujaratis but against the entire media fraternity," Patel said in a late night statement.
This is the second time within a fortnight that the Gujarati-Marathi relations have come to the fore in Mumbai.
May 1, the Gujarati community was targeted in a sharp editorial in the Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamana, but later top leaders of the party, including Subhash Desai, Uddhav Thackeray and Aditya Thackeray expressed regrets over it.
The editorial asked whether the Gujaratis, who support Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, would rally behind the Shiv Sena-led Grand Alliance in the 2014 state elections.
It went to the extent of alleging the Gujaratis and other non-Marathi businessmen have extracted a lot from Mumbai, virtually using it like an "attractive prostitute" to construct their own Dwarkas (cities of gold).
As the Shiv Sena appeared to distance itself from the controversial editorial, NGO Swabhiman Sanghatana leader Nitesh (Narayan) Rane supported Saamana editor and Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut.