Shiv Sena at it Again.
In 1960, after he had graduated and I had finished my Masters, he invited me to collaborate with him in a new literary venture. He along with his friend Bal Thackeray were to start a new journal, Shabda, and I was to ask some Gujarati poets and critics to let us translate their works.
That was fifty years ago. I left for the US to study and Dilip continued his many creative activities. In the meantime, Bal Thackeray has become an iconic leader of the Shiv Sena. Yet, it is also striking that fifty years after winning Maharashtra state for the Marathi- speaking people, he and his followers are still complaining about the plight of the Marathi manoos. According to the Shiv Sena and its offshoot, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), it's the migrant worker from North India who is to blame for the state of the deprived Maharashtrian worker. When the Shiv Sena was formed, at that time it was the South Indian who was the enemy. But the focus is no longer on the better-paid clerical jobs that the Sena once said the "Madrasis" had stolen. It's now on the lower paid jobs and the enemy is now the North Indian worker.
The question to ask then is that if these unresolved issues still persist, then does that mean that the Shiv Sena has been a failure in its fifty years of existence? Or does it rake these issues simply to get attention and cause mayhem? Is it the intimation of failure at the end of fifty years' struggle that haunts the Sena? Why else would its workers be incited to attack Sachin Tendulkar or Shah Rukh Khan?
But it's not just the Shiv Sena or its leader who are at fault. The blame should go to the type of politics which does not pursue overall development, creating opportunities for all, but thinks of the economy as a zero sum game. If in reality the Marathi manoos is more deprived than the recently arrived Bihari, then something has been totally amiss from the politics of the Shiv Sena. Why did it not agitate to ensure that Marathi workers were taught better skills or to encourage entrepreneurship? Do we need a Sachar Report for the Marathi manoos? Why is there in no such sentiment in Gujarat after 50 years of its existence?
Why is there is no agitation for the Gujarati manas there, no feeling of dissatisfaction? Could it be that the growth performance of Gujarat has been better than that of Maharashtra in every way? Of course, divisive and xenophobic politics never wishes to cure the poverty of its followers. Once the people are prosperous, they would abandon the leader. Hence, the need to keep them dissatisfied. Unluckily for the Shiv Sena, the people of Maharashtra by and large want development and vote for parties that will give them a better deal. The Shiv Sena wants to preserve the resentment of its followers but their hold over the people is now loosening. Hence, the escalation of sporadic attacks on C iconic figures.
It is interesting to see that BJP president Nitin Gadkari and the RSS have abandoned the Shiv Sena and proudly asserted the rights of all Indians to live and work anywhere. This is a significant shift in the ideology of the BJP/RSS. Gadkari has already made overtures to Dalit voters by honouring Babasaheb Ambedkar. The upgrading of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya in the BJP ideology is a signal that the BJP wants to have its own 'aam admi' strategy.
It will be fascinating to see if the Shiv Sena, in its desperate state, begins to attack the RSS and the BJP. Instead of backing provincial linguistic nationalism in each state -- Orissa for Oriya speakers, Assam for Assamese speakers and Mumbai for Marathi speakers etc -- the BJP has opted for a national identity. Perhaps it can enhance its chances of success by defining Indians more broadly than it normally does.
Eminent economist Lord Meghnad eC Desai is a professor emeritus of the London School of Economics
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