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The Shiv Sena has consciously decided not to join the anti-Pakistan chorus against actors cast in Bollywood films to avoid what party sources said unnecessary competition with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). It also reckons that violence on the streets fuelled by anti-Pakistan sentiments will not auger well for the party, which shares power with the BJP both at the Centre and the state.
The MNS led by Raj Thackeray has taken the centrestage by voicing its protests against Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, starring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan. The question that is being asked is, has the MNS succeeded in hijacking the “anti-Pak” agenda of the Sena?
“Our anti-Pakistan stand has always been based on patriotism. The MNS’s anti-Pakistan protest is for politics,” said Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant. “Moreover, our anti-Pakistan stand is known for the past six decades,” he added.
It was in September when MNS’s cine wing chief Amey Khopar issued an ultimatum to film producers, directors and theatre associations against casting and screening films with Pakistani actors.
The marked difference in the nature of protest between the Sena and MNS has been evident from Day One. While the MNS has resorted to protests, the Sena vents its anger against Pakistan in the in-house mouthpiece Saamana.
The Sena’s moderate stand on Pakistan is a clear departure from its past when Sainiks would dig up cricket pitches to stop matches with Pakistan and disallowed ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali’s concert in Mumbai. The list of Sena protests against cultural and sports events involving Pakistanis runs long.
“We are looking at the Pakistan problems in larger national and international context. Being a party in power in the NDA at the Centre, our concern was the Indian government should give a befitting reply to Pakistan after the Uri attack. Prime Minister Narendra Modi deserves appreciation for the surgical strikes across the Line of Control,” said a Sena Cabinet minister.
He said the surgical strikes sent a clear and loud message to Pakistan and the world. “Therefore, taking on individual actors as is being done by some section (MNS) is fine. Why engage in ugly competition with the MNS,” he said.
Earlier, in an editorial in Saamana after the Uri attack, the Sena said, “It’s time PM keeps his promise to teach Pakistan a lesson.” In another editorial, it had said, “Pakistan is a terrorist state. Why should efforts be made to declare it a terror state? The whole world knows Pakistan’s true colours.”
Instead, the Sena is concentrating on larger issues where it can score against the BJP, such as the local bodies’ elections.
On its part, the MNS is increasingly scouting for emotive issues to revive the organisation. The protest against Pakistani actors coinciding with the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has landed them that political space. But to what extent it would help them electorally remains to be seen.
MNS general secretary Shalini Thackeray said, “We will not compromise on films with Pakistani actors. We will continue our protest.”