The Thackerays have a unique ability of making the headlines every now and often despite their one-dimensional and geographically limited pursuit of politics. Shiv Sena patriarch Balasaheb Thackeray said on Saturday that given a chance to direct the Indian Army, he would have little problem in settling all issues in the country. One month will be enough for his 'straightening' act.
According to the senior Thackeray, the Muslim fundamentalists would not be spared for creating trouble, at least in Maharshtra. He spoke about the post-Babri riots, Godhra carnage and Mumbai violence last month in the same breath. The Shiv Sena chief also wondered why the Bihar CM was worried over the Maharastra Police taking action against criminals in the latter's state.
His nephew, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray was equally explosive during his interview with an English news channel. He said the people from Bihar and UP are creating trouble in Maharashtra and that the news media, particularly the Hindi one, were twisting his comments for TRP gains. According to the junior Thackeray, UP has been home to majority of India's prime ministers but yet the state sees so many people leaving for elsewhere.
Thackerays have serious drawbacks
The Thackerays issue their thundering statements often but one can not help but conclude that they suffer from two major drawbacks. One, they go overboard at the slighest provocation and tend to oversimplify issues through narrow views and two, a communication problem which the TRP-obsessed media use to their own advantage, even very brutally at times. The communication problem is, perhaps aided by a lack of understanding of the meaning of 'India'.The irony is that, whether Raj Thackeray likes it or not, he is as much as dependent on media publicity (positive or negative) as the latter are on him.
These forces gained prominence after Congress declined
The Thackerays are an alternative reality that has evolved in today's India after the collapse of the Congress system and its culture. The irony is that a regional force like Shiv Sena was encouraged by the Congress in the past but soon it teamed up with the BJP in the 1980s, the time when Hindu fundamentalism began to rise steadily on the ruins of the Congress's pseudo-secularism.
The problem is a structural one. As one 'ism' grows on the ruins of another, India's debatable secularism had lost all its charm in the post-Nehru days and Indira Gandhi's assassination by Sikh bodyguards or Rajiv Gandhi's minority appeasement in instances like Shah Bano case in the mid-1980s instilled a sense of fear among the Hindus and they found a shelter in the emerging Hindutva politics. Then came the Mandal politics, which mobilised the apprehensive upper-caste Hindus further in support of Hindutva and all soon, the right-wing forces went on to form their own governments at various states of India.
Raj Thackeray's rise and fall out with Shiv Sena
The Shiv Sena also formed the government in Maharashtra with the BJP in mid-1990s and Raj Thackeray had made his presence felt during this time. He had formed the Shiv Udyog Sena in 1997 and also arranged a Michael Jackson concert, which made him an popular icon at that time. But Raj soon found himself in the corner.
The Ramesh Kini murder case of 1997 caused discomfort and when Balasaheb announced his son Uddhav as the Sena chairman, Raj was far from pleased and formed the MNS in 2006. Raj started to attack north Indian migrants although he said on face that he was only attacking those who created a division among the people. The MNS soon turned out to be a clone of the mother party with a thrust on militant and exclusivist brand of politics.
Raj Thackeray looks a confused politician. It seems he has generalised Biharis, UPites, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis in the same category. He said during his interview that 48 trains enter Maharashtra every day from the eastern states and those travelling in those trains must be kept under scrutiny.
This shows how narrow perception about the modern India that these leaders have and that they will not survive without issuing warnings every other day. A city is built by waves of migration and the consequent cross-cultural mix and so is a nation. If all migrants are chased out or we need arms to clean up our society, then I must say that the concept of India should be withered away.
The same is applicable in Tamil Nadu where a voice is being raised against Sinhalas or in the northeast where Bangladeshis have been at the receiving end for it is said that they are posing threat to the national security.
Senas' narrow politics won't earn anything
Both the Senas are victims of reactionary politics and even though Raj Thackeray tried to promote the philosophy of Marathi Manoos, he has failed to chart a new way to do so. Neither the Indian Constitution nor the new economy of the 21st century not allow much space for aggressigve and one-dimensional politics of the Thackerays. Neither of the Senas have succeeded in scripting a politics of transformation from what it was in the 1960s and Raj should be held more responsible for the failure for he belonged to the new India.
If people from UP and Bihar are settling in Maharashtra and adding to its economic performance, then who is Raj Thackeray to create an unnecessary disturbance in the smooth functioning of the democratic economy? Why doesn't he speak for economic uplift for the promotion of the idea of Marathi Manoos? If the Bihar police have done any grave error of not arresting criminals, it is the problem of coordination between states' administration and Raj Thackeray has no business in threatening all Biharis.
Nor does his 86-year-old uncle has the understanding of the idea of unleashing military power to flush out fundamentalists within a month. The senior Sena doesn't even hesitate to attack a national icon like Sachin Tendulkar when he says 'Mumbai is for all'. What national security is he speaking about?
Lack of clarity of ideas and only belligerence
It is unfortunate that the regional satraps in today's India are so obsessed with misleading and muscle-flexing politics that they do not have any utility as far as solving the real issues on earth are concerned. 'Islamic threat', 'national security', 'crime', 'Migration', each of these issues have serious impact for India today but that doesn't mean anybody will jumble up all together with a sole aim of promoting narrow identity politics. That can not be allowed if the conecpt of India is to survive.