Filthy Politics at its Best in Maharashtra

The last month has seen a huge amount of turmoil in Maharashtra. It has seen violence against North Indians, death of several labourers from UP, a shut down situation in Mumbai and Pune and on top of all this, Raj Thackrey has spent time in jail.

The party workers of MNS have been destroying public property and harassing the public while the government in Maharashtra has not taken any drastic actions. In the process, Raj Thackrey is on the path of emerging as a powerful leader in Maharashtra.

So why is this happening? Is Raj Thackrey so powerful? Why isn’t the state government doing anything?

Though the state government could have stopped all this from happening by taking action on Raj Thackrey earlier, it didn’t do so because it intended not to, because it wanted to help Raj Thackrey.

Surprised? Let me explain. The events of the last few months have been part of a well thought out political strategy keeping in mind the upcoming elections. This is vote bank politics at its best or, might I say, worst.

Raj Thackrey was once seen as the future leader of the Shiv Sena. He was expected to take over the reigns from his uncle Bal Thackrey but was sidelined by Udhav Thackrey, Bal Thackrey’s son. This created a rift between the cousins and Raj Thackrey set up the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in March 2006. The objective of the party was to look after the local Marathi population, an objective which many people felt Shiv Sena was giving up on in order to transform itself into a national player. Therefore, MNS was formed and several of members of the Shiv Sena joined the newly formed party under Raj Thackrey.

Now traditionally, the NCP and the Congress have been fighting the Shiv Sena and BJP in Maharashtra. The Shiv Sena has a large vote bank of Marathi supporters. The forming of MNS gave the NCP–Congress Alliance the opportunity to break away a part of the Marathi vote bank or at least weaken the Shiv Sena by creating a powerful Raj Thackrey in front of it.

When Raj Thackrey created MNS, he needed to create an identity for himself as the savior and protector of the Marathis. He therefore took the stance that North Indians are snatching jobs from the local population. The same route had been taken by his uncle Bal Thackrey when he launched a similar attack on South Indians in the 1960s. The violence brought him media coverage and helped him in create his image as the savior of the Marathis.

Why did the state government not act? A weaker Shiv Sena will help the NCP–Congress Alliance in the upcoming elections. Raj Thackrey is feeding into the Shiv Sena local vote bank. However after giving Raj Thackrey a fair amount of leash, the government went ahead and arrested him. This worked well for Raj Thackrey as it showed the people that he is willing to even go to jail for them. The government, on the other hand, was able to win some credibility for its actions. However if one notices most of the cases registered against Raj Thackrey are bailable and also the public prosecutor has been quite soft on him in the various hearings that have taken place till now. So Raj Thackrey is going to walk away free although he might have to go through a month of procedural court troubles. This will mean that in a month’s time both Raj Thackrey and the NCP-Congress Alliance will emerge as winners while the Shiv Sena will find itself on the losing side.

The filthy tale of politics is definitely more interesting in real life than in reel life. Soon enough, we will know who the true winner is when the upcoming elections decide the fate of these parties and politicians.

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