At the core of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), sits its inherent desire to create upheaval. The MNS is designed for chaos, but it doesn’t know how to control it once its engendered.
In the midst of the Brihanmumbai Muncipal Corporation (BMC) polls, the MNS has resurfaced in the news. Back in October last year, 12 partymen fulminated about the screening of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil at Bombay’s Metro Cinema, since the film featured a Pakistani actor. Subsequently, they were arrested. Four months on, the party’s list of candidates contesting the BMC polls interestingly has the names of the wives of two of these men.
Through this step, there are intangible benefits for the MNS, of course – the fringe party pushes it way back to make headlines through this underhanded move, particularly during the polls. They also bask in the glint of prestige, posing as a party that encourages women candidates to contest. Priti Gawhane, who is married to divisional president Shekhar Gawhane, will be competing for Ward 222 (Dhobi Talav, Chandanwadi), while Sachin Gangawane’s wife Vaishali will be competing for Ward 225 (Fort, Gateway of India). The party’s tangible interest is at play as well – if the wives do win, their decisions are bound to be influenced by their respective husbands who will be working from behind-the-scenes as the hard-nosed party’s mouthpieces.
By encouraging the wives to contest, the MNS makes a telling, albeit absurd statement. It conveys that not only is gunda-raj encouraged, but those who participate in gunda-gardi will be rewarded, directly or indirectly. It gives the perverse a ticket to throw a vitriolic tantrum at the drop of the hat, against anything or any element that they consider in their eyes as “anti-national”. More importantly, the party is reveling in the menace it orchestrated during the release of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, using it as a slingshot to catapult into the favour of the people. It’s competitive opportunism, really: “We have been working in the area continuously and have been raising several issues like parking, poor roads etc. Besides, we are also telling people about our protest against Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, through which we sought a ban on Pakistani actors. That was more about patriotism, and people are acknowledging it now,” Nishant Gaikwad, who is the party’s Deputy Divisional Head at Colaba had said.
In the past, under the veneer of patriotism, the Hindu far right party had arm-twisted the film’s director, Karan Johar, into publishing an apology and assuring that “he will not engage in talent” from Pakistan. It also got Rs 5 crore from him as a donation to the Indian Army.
The BMC polling will take place on February 21, 2017.