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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

A thin saffron line

While their alliance is over two decades old,the BJP has often found itself at a loss of words over the Shiv Sena’s strident ‘Marathi Manoos’ or ‘Maharashtra for Maharashtrians’ lines....

Written by Express News Service |
February 2, 2010 2:04:37 am

While their alliance is over two decades old,the BJP has often found itself at a loss of words over the Shiv Sena’s strident ‘Marathi Manoos’ or ‘Maharashtra for Maharashtrians’ lines. Having run a government at the Centre,and hoping to return there soon,the exclusivist agenda hardly fits the BJP’s scheme of things,unlike the Sena and its Maharashtra-centric politics. A look at how the issue has figured in their ties:

July 2007: Ignoring the BJP’s choice of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat,the Shiv Sena supports Pratibha Patil during the presidential election. “This is the first time in history that somebody from Maharashtra,that too a woman,is going to serve the nation as its President. I am proud of this,” says Uddhav Thackeray. “The BJP has to decide whether it wants to continue the alliance and I would accept any decision they make.”

Nov 2008: The Sena and BJP boycott an all-party meeting called by then Maharashtra CM Vilasrao Deshmukh to decide on a delegation to meet PM Manmohan Singh and clear doubts over the issue of migrants in the state.

March 2009: Ahead of the Lok Sabha elections,Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut demands that a Maharashtrian become the PM,and asks the BJP to clarify its stand. Raut claims “senior leaders in the state like (Gopinath) Munde and (Nitin) Gadkari would not like if a Marathi grabs the post”. At the same time,he adds,since his party was part of the NDA,it would support L K Advani for the post.

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June 2009: Sena MLAs pitch for curbing migration to Mumbai from other parts of the country and also call for protection of Mumbai’s Marathi identity,inside the Assembly. “Marathi families find it difficult to afford homes in Mumbai. Marathi youths don’t get jobs in Mumbai… If this persists,a day will come when the Marathi manoos will have become extinct in his very own city of Mumbai,” senior Sena MLA Gajanan Kirtikar says. However,the BJP takes an opposite stand and claims Mumbai’s woes could be cured only if the city got world-class infrastructure. “Mumbai’s problems do not have lingual,regional,communal,or political solutions but deserve an infrastructure overhaul,” then state president of the party,Nitin Gadkari,says. “No political party including the BJP,Sena,or even the MNS owns Mumbai and it is only the ‘sons of the soil’ who own the city.”

September 2009: However,two months later,the BJP apparently has no problems going along with the Sena on a joint manifesto for the Assembly elections which,among other things,promises to curb flow of migrants to Mumbai and other urban areas of the state “through an independent mechanism” — without elaborating the same — and houses for locals. “Our priority would be to secure the interests of the locals who are staying here for years and suffering due to outsiders,” Uddhav says. Both Munde and Gadkari are present when the manifesto is unveiled,though they prefer not to say a word on the specific issue of “outsiders”.

NOVEMBER 2009: Stung by the Assembly poll results,Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray bites off more than he can chew by lashing out at cricketer Sachin Tendulkar for his remark that “Mumbai belongs to all Indians” and “not to anyone in particular”. While he is a Maharashtrian and “extremely proud of that”,says the cricket star, “I am an Indian first.” Thackeray accuses Sachin of “hurting the feelings of Marathi Manoos”,and warns: “Please keep it in mind that we praise you for your fours and sixes on the field,but if you use your tongue as a bat to hit boundaries against Marathi Manoos,we will never tolerate it.” The remarks are met with outrage,including from an embarrassed BJP,which says Sachin only said what a patriotic Indian would say. The Sena backtracks,clarifying Thackeray’s remarks were only an advice “in Thackeray’s capacity as an elder”. The BJP also “strongly condemns” the attack by Sena activists on the offices of a TV channel,for “misquoting Thackeray’s remarks on Sachin”.

January 2010: Just a fortnight before the RSS chief speaks up and changed the dynamics,new BJP president Nitin Gadkari toes more or less the Sena line on migrants. He says migration to Delhi and Mumbai is becoming a roadblock to development of these cities.

January 2010: When Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan attempts to hop on to the Marathi bandwagon with his ‘taxi permits for Marathis notification’,only to try and disembark when the going gets very rough,the BJP is as critical of his indecision as the Sena. BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari calls the retraction a “lame gesture”.

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