Why Mumbai needs a Bal Thackeray

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by pankaj nema, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. pankaj nema

    pankaj nema Senior Member Senior Member

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    ANALYSIS : Why Mumbai needs a Bal Thackeray — Sonali Ranade


    Bal Thackeray’s ‘communalism’ was not ideological. It was more a question of competition for influence with the Congress than an ingrained hostility to Muslims as such

    Neither Bal Thackeray, nor Shiv Sena, happened in a vacuum. Both were a product of their times even as they attempted to define it. To understand what empowered Bal Thackeray, and will continue to sustain Shiv Sena, one needs to understand something of the unique political configuration that has trapped Mumbai.

    Mumbai and its suburbs have a population of 20.50 million. Maharashtra’s total population is 112 million. Nearly every fifth Maharashtrian lives in Mumbai. That is a huge proportion. Maharashtra provides roughly 15 percent of India’s GDP, of which about 40 percent originates in Mumbai. The city alone provides almost 30 percent of India’s total direct taxes. By any standard, population numbers or wealth generation, Mumbai simply dwarfs all else in Maharashtra.

    Yet, despite its huge population size, and wealth, how is Mumbai represented in Maharashtra’s politics? You can examine this question at two levels. The first level is the city’s representation in formal government structures. The second level is in terms of real influence that the city can win given the configuration of political power in Maharashtra and India.

    Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan
     
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  3. pankaj nema

    pankaj nema Senior Member Senior Member

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    Contd from above



    Maharashtra has 288 MLAs in the Legislative Assembly, of which Mumbai contributes nine. Add to that number the seats from the greater metropolitan area and the number grows to 36 or roughly 12 percent of the total strength of the Legislative Assembly. In contrast, 18 percent of all Maharashtrians live in Mumbai. Clearly, Mumbaikars, as a whole, are grossly under-represented in Maharashtra’s politics when, as the single largest voter bloc, they should actually dominate Maharashtra politics. Remember the seat of Maharashtra’s government is in Mumbai. This factor alone accounts for the huge sense of disempowerment that Mumbaikars nurse.

    However, it is the highly skewed political configuration of Maharashtra’s political dynamic that truly marginalises a large portion of Mumbai’s middle class. To understand this, consider Maharashtra’s politics as dominated by the Congress and anti-Congress factions, where both attract support in more or less equal measure. Of the two, the Congress has been the dominant faction. When the Congress is in power, it generally favours rural over urban voters, which cuts out Mumbai. Further, the Congress generally favours the poor over the middle class; that alienates the better-off Mumbaikar, who is far richer than his rural counterpart, never mind Mumbai’s pathetic slums, et al. Within the Congress, the Marathas from the agriculturally rich western Maharashtra have dominated the Congress Party, and over the decades, have transferred whatever surplus was at hand to their constituencies for development. Mumbai was nothing more than a milk cow for Congress politicians.

    The anti-Congress faction has been in power only once, representing an alliance of the Shiv Sena-BJP, and this formation almost bankrupted the State by diverting all the money they could find or borrow into rebuilding Mumbai’s dilapidated infrastructure in 1995-2000. They were promptly booted out of power for their trouble but the Mumbaikars still nurse sympathy for them. But in the larger Maharashtra constituency, the Congress holds sway. Nevertheless, the five-year spell by the Shiv Sena/BJP highlighted Mumbai’s marginalisation by showing what was possible but for the Congress’ domination of Maharashtra’s politics.
     
  4. pankaj nema

    pankaj nema Senior Member Senior Member

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    Contd from above

    If one goes back in time and examines Mumbai’s politics in the decades of the 1970s and 1980s when the Congress was the only party in power, two more factors emerge. Firstly, Mumbai was the smuggling capital of India, with the Konkan coast [that includes Mumbai] landing 90 percent of contraband that included gold, electronics, textiles and much else. The fishermen of Konkan, traditionally Muslim, dominated the smuggling trade. To that mix were added the Malabari Muslims in Dubai who sourced the contraband and the Pathans of Mumbai who provided political protection and marketing. This grouping, highly organised, was an excellent vote-gathering machine at election time, and the need to buy political protection made it the ideal partners of the unscrupulous Congress politicians. Needless to say, Muslim ‘dons’ — big and small — dominated the ward-level politics, adding to the resentment of the lower-middle class Maharashtrian, who saw the phenomenon first hand.

    Secondly, the Congress’ general wooing of Muslim votes, perceived or real, set the Mumbaikars searching for an alternative to the former in Mumbai. It was into this vacuum that Bal Thackeray stepped in. He let this natural, alienated, marginalised lower-middle class constituency shape his worldview and politics. Their preferred opinion became Balasaheb’s ideology. That partly explains why he had no political philosophy or ideology of his own to speak of.

    Bal Thackeray’s ‘communalism’ was not ideological. It was more a question of competition for influence with the Congress than an ingrained hostility to Muslims as such. His alliance with the RSS/BJP was a political alliance that did little to shape his worldview. The Sena did target Mumbai’s underworld, but it did this through the police, whose lower ranks came to be fiercely loyal to the former given that the recruitment catchment for lower ranks was largely local. Similarly, Sena’s antipathy to outsiders, be they Tamils, UP-wallas, Biharis or whoever, was driven by a desire to win as many jobs for the marginalised lower middle class Maharashtrian, rather than a xenophobic fear or loathing of outsiders. It should be seen more in the light of Balasaheb’s need to show results for his constituency when out of power rather than parochialism per se. In any case, that sense of marginalisation of the Marathi Manoos in Mumbai explains the fierce loyalty that Sena commands, something that outsiders find hard to comprehend given Mumbai’s wealth, fame and cosmopolitan character.

    Bal Thackeray took politics as local for Mumbai and Maharashtra. Since all good politics is local, that cannot be a bad thing by itself. Delhi has become too remote, especially within the Congress Party that cannot see local politics in all its murky detail, and is too tied up in preserving the party apparatus as a vote-gathering machine for its princelings. The Congress’ predilection for one-size-fits-all closely mirrors the model used by India’s woodenheaded civil service that misses the wood for the trees. It is not just in Maharashtra that people see the Congress and its centralisation of power in Delhi as demeaning. Regional leaders like Bal Thackeray, Narendra Modi, Jayalalitha, Mamata, Navin Patnaik et al were/are having a field day shredding the Congress machine to pieces and the trend can only accentuate with time as the locus of power and resources shifts from the Centre to the States.
     
  5. pankaj nema

    pankaj nema Senior Member Senior Member

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    Contd from above

    Mumbai’s marginalisation within India, and the Maharashtrian Mumbaikar’s marginalisation within Mumbai, is not going to be easily reversed as both are built into the system. Electoral constituencies are not going to be re-delineated in a hurry. Mumbai’s representation is frozen. Mumbai’s intellectual space and population of critical thinkers continues to shrink. We have hardly produced a writer or thinker of note outside of Bollywood in the last two decades. Such intellectuals as do exist are confined to corporate boardrooms. Land sharks, mafia dons and unscrupulous politicians are crowding out entrepreneurs. The artificial boom in real estate makes the expansion of schooling, colleges and universities unviable. New businesses and new industry are simply migrating to other lower cost centres. Mumbai is at the threshold of a death spiral that will not be easy to reverse. Delegation of more powers to the Bihran Mumbai Municipal Corporation, with control over Mumbai’s infrastructure, and introduction of a full-fledged civic government under an executive mayor remain a distant dream. The MLAs — both Congress and Shiv Sena/BJP — are simply loath to delegate real power to civic governments just as central government fights shy of devolving more powers to the States.

    To the extent the Marathi Manoos is numerically dominant but systematically marginalised, there will always be political space for leaders like Bal Thackeray who are willing to use methods outside democracy’s normal rules to gain and exercise power. Bal Thackeray may have loved Hitler but I do not think he was one. The fact is that if you put a city like Mumbai, and its numerically dominant single largest group in chains — intended or not — democracy itself is called into question. And that was, and is, Mumbai’s and Bal Thackeray’s tragedy.
     
  6. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    Hmm...is this the same lady that regularly criticises Narendra Modi.
     
  7. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Bal Thackeray - A View

    Fame and the undead

    Gautam Adhikari

    Rest in peace, they say, when you are dead, though you probably won't actually hear anyone render such soothing advice. But if you are famous in life, there's a good chance that your fame will not be interred with your bones. You might be at eternal peace with the universe or end up as dark matter, but your fame will linger as a topic of discussion, evaluation and re-evaluation. You'll stay undead.

    Take Abraham Lincoln. Most people today would agree that he was a great, perhaps the greatest, president of the United States. He died nearly a century and a half ago but his life and works are under ceaseless evaluation and interpretation. During his lifetime, he had many enemies and critics. To preserve the unity of the country he waged and won a war against the southern states of the US at the cost of at least 650,000 lives. One man, John Wilkes Booth, hated Lincoln enough to shoot him dead.

    Yet his fame lived on and billowed into a giant aura of one of the world's legendary historical figures. His colossal statue stares from Washington's Lincoln Memorial at Capitol Hill in the distance. In his life, people on the Hill gave him much discomfort but he coaxed and cajoled a majority into passing a Constitutional amendment to abolish slavery from America's soil. His complex, many-sided personality comes out in Steven Spielberg's brilliant new film 'Lincoln'.

    What emerges is the character of greatness, warts and all. It is a revisionist view in the sense that the film shows Lincoln as a crafty enough politician to be as devious as necessary to ensure that his goal would be achieved. Like another great politician, M.K. Gandhi, he knew when to wink and when to nod while defending his principles.Revisionism in search of 'true' portraits of the dead is rampant. A new book, 'Master of the Mountain' by Henry Wiencek, has riled many historians by revising the prevalent account of the life of Thomas Jefferson, also a great American president, who the author says was cynically interested in the economic benefits of slavery.

    Some want to re-examine aspects of the real thing. Albert Einstein's brain has been preserved for posterity and is now being examined by scientists for clues to genius. Others want to exhume bodies to find out how the fellow really died even as he rests in pieces. Yasser Arafat has been dug up to check whether the Israelis poisoned him.All this rumination on what happens when a famous person passes away stirred my mind while reading several glowing accounts, and a few critical ones, of the life of a famous Indian, the late Bal Thackeray. That he was famous is undoubted. Even The Economist magazine, which deals with weighty matters of the world every week, thought so since they carried a lengthy obituary on him last week. But was he great?

    That, of course, depends on how you define greatness. Bal Thackeray was an enigma. He was no Hitler, though he admired the Fuehrer and may have wanted to be like him. Thanks to my professional access at the time, I once had an opportunity to have lunch with him back in the mid-1990s. He came to the hotel lobby where we were to meet with a six-man, carbine-toting posse of bodyguards. We went up to a secluded room, where Thackeray fished out cans of chilled Heineken from a bag and launched into a delightful, often very funny, discourse on his view of life and politics.

    For me it was an exercise of trying to understand where a famous personality came from without having to talk about myself. After three hours, he was still an enigma.What intrigued me was how such a cheerful seemingly happy person could be a fountainhead of the politics of intolerance. In his Marathi-first exclusivity, he had wanted to keep out, in various phases, all south Indians, Muslims, north Indian 'bhaiyyas' and other non-Maharashtrians from Bombay, which he renamed Mumbai for authenticity. Yet, he fanned hatred all his life and saw himself above the law..

    Interestingly, as my friend Rajiv pointed out, he never changed his name from the anglicized Thackeray into a properly Marathi Thakre.

    Fame and the undead by Just Graffiti : Gautam Adhikari's blog-The Times Of India

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    There is no doubt that BT was an enigma.

    I have seen interviews of him with various news anchors.

    I have found him sharp, with great presence of mind wherein he is not caught on the wrong foot, capable of repartee and rather witty.

    He also appeared in these interviews straight forward and not with the usual chameleon behaviour of politicians.

    He could have been likeable but for his rather divisive views that rankled and which was total contrary to the concept of what constitutes India.
     
  8. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    I don't think any State in India require such a personality as Bal Thackeray since one cannot have ideologies that run counter to the basic foundations of the Indian Constitution.
     

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