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Narrow and narrower

Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra continues to fan social anxieties,just like the other parties

Written by The Indian Express | Published: July 24, 2013 12:35 am

Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra continues to fan social anxieties,just like the other parties

Maharashtra’s home minister,R.R. Patil,refuses to call it moral policing,but his war on dance bars will continue. On Monday,he said that he was considering three options to prevent the opening of dance bars after the Supreme Court overturned the ban this month. These are filing a review petition,exercising executive authority or drafting a new legislation. The minister did not clarify whether his refusal to heed the court’s judgment and move on from such narrow focus on dance bars draws from pique,but the message is clear. The ruling Congress-NCP coalition will play its part in the state’s competitive politics to sharpen social anxieties. Coming as Patil’s declaration of intent does on the local Congress’s aggression against an eatery on an anti-UPA witticism on a menu card,forcing the place to close down and the owner to flee,it is especially difficult to harbour the expectation that collective wisdom in the state cabinet could counsel the home minister to more judicious focus for his high office.

It is also a reminder of the mess yielded by Maharashtra’s uniquely extractive politics. With administrative and municipal structures overlapping in a way that yields little public good but gives different parties a self-aggrandising stake,politics is conducted as a defence against assimilation and modernity. All parties are complicit in this,and the Congress-NCP’s current conduct is a reminder that they only vary in the degrees to which they will go to evade questions of governance by focusing their political energies on stirring anxiety about migration and the spectre of licentiousness. It is useful to recall that Patil’s war on dance bars was never framed as a struggle

to address the working conditions

of the women employed — he is worried,as he reminded the media this week,about the “socio-economic ramifications”. It is of a piece with the locally drummed up opposition to cheerleaders at cricket matches and periodic police action on parties by using an archaic law on consumption of alcohol. Moreover,while the Shiv Sena and its offshoot shriek hysterically against migrant workers from other parts of the country,the dance bar ban was a softer whistle

to address (and nurture) the same anxious constituency.

It is convenient politics for the ruling combine. When they compete on the opposition’s terms,there is no political stakeholder to counter them on meaningful issues of governance and liberty. How unfortunate.

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