Sunday, February 7, 2010

Who’ll stand up to this big bully?- Hindustan Times

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    • Two interesting things about Bal Thackeray that you may not know. One: in 1966 when the Shiv Sena first exploded on the scene, Indira Gandhi had only just become the Prime Minister of India and Rajiv Gandhi was yet to marry Sonia Maino. Of today’s senior leaders, Pranab Mukherjee was a young academic who had not even joined the Congress. Sharad Pawar had not yet been elected to the state assembly. In that sense, Bal Thackeray is probably the most senior of all active politicians in India today.

      The second interesting thing: though he has been around for over four decades, Thackeray has never once propounded a progressive agenda for Maharashtra or laid out his vision of how the state can flourish. All of his politics have been essentially negative: hate this community, beat up another ethnic group and burn the homes of a third.

      When Thackeray launched the Shiv Sena, he did so with the support and blessings of such Congress strongmen of that era as V.P . Naik and S.K. Patil. In the mid-60s, the Congress worried that the Communists were gaining a foothold in the industrial units of north Bombay. The Shiv Sena’s job was to fight the Communists (by any means necessary) and to protect the Congress bastion.

      In those days, Thackeray’s agenda was to rid Bombay of the communities that he claimed were oppressing the Maharashtrian people: South Indians and Gujaratis. What the Shiv Sena rarely reminds us is that, till 1960, there was no such state as Maharashtra. The state was called Bombay and included much of what is now Gujarat. Maharashtra was created in 1960 and naturally, Bombay still had a largely non-Maharashtrian ethos. As Maharashtrians from other parts of the state came flooding into the city (contrary to what he may claim, even Thackeray’s own family is not from Bombay), the Shiv Sena treated them as its natural constituency.

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