Till recently, Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had wandered off into political irrelevance in Maharashtra. But, the controversy over Karan Johar’s new Bollywood film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil has come at a time when the party could use it in its jingoistic rhetoric to come into the limelight again.
Pakistani actor Fawad Khan was cast in a role in the film and that formed the base of the controversy. Single screen theatres have declared that they will not screen the film while multiplexes have sought security from the police and the state government. The situation has reached a point where all reconciliation attempts between the filmmakers and Thackeray failed and the producers’ guild had to take the issue to Raisina Hill in the Capital.
MNS’ ploy seems to have played well as the noise has captured Mumbai and rest of the country. MNS will want to use this issue to galvanise public support in their favour by tapping into the collective anger against Pakistan due to repeated terror strikes on India.
If the party commands a following then a simple boycott call can inspire people to follow. But forcing people to ban exhibition and promoting vigilantism in the name of patriotism seems to be a working strategy played well by some in Mumbai.
MNS has one eye on the BMC municipal elections slated for 2017. MNS has near zilch presence in the Maharashtra Assembly with the only single MNS MLA also operating his own political outfit. The city just suffered one of the worst monsoon civic crisis and its aftermath that left the city reeling under garbage, cleanliness issues, potholes, drainage breakdowns and cross leakages in drinking water and sewer lines. However, the MNS, which holds a nominal share in the BMC house fails to raise any issue of the sorts. Same can be said for the likes of the Shiv Sena as well which has a history of promoting jingoism but it hasn’t really delivered on its promises, despite the fact that it runs the wealthiest municipal body in Asia.
MNS leaders are known for jingoistic outbursts and scores of MNS members have repeatedly indulged in vandalism, vigilante activism and moral policing in the past. The police even arrested 10 party members recently in relation to the party’s boycott call. Going by past protests over films, it is likely that it will be released after much furore and will get a massive reception due to the limelight it enjoyed.