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It’s time for Raj Thackeray to wake up

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Sunday, October 11, 2009 - 16:47
Ritesh K Srivastava
The Observer

‘Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. This phrase, coined by Lord Acton, fits absolutely in the case of MNS chief Raj Thackeray, whose brand of aggressive and divisive politics is doing more harm than good to the people of Maharashtra.

At a time, when the state is set for the assembly elections and political activities have gained momentum, with top leaders promising development and prosperity to their voters, this self-anointed leader of the ‘Marathi Manoos’ is busy playing up vendetta politics to further marginalise non-Maharastrians residing in Mumbai.

This goon-turned leader, who has successfully used his famous surname for political gains, has deliberately raked up just another issue to grab headlines by stirring Marathi sentiment.

Here, I am referring to an unintentional error committed by the renowned film producer-director Karan Johar, who gave MNS chief a well-timed opportunity to create a political hullabaloo over Mumbai being referred to as ‘Bombay’ in his latest release ‘Wake Up Sid’.

The MNS spared no time in linking this trivial issue with the Marathi sentiment and branding it as a grave insult of the ‘Marathi Manoos’. What followed were the typical MNS-style protests by the ‘sons of the soil’ threatening to block the screening of the film in several cities.

Since a lot of money was at stake, Karan Johar took a wise decision of issuing an apology over the mistake. The controversy saw the MNS smiling at last by putting even the Shiv Sena on the back-foot creating a ruckus over nothing.

Shiv Sena patron Bal Thackeray had once championed the ‘Maratha cause’, but time and again his estranged nephew Raj Thackeray has been emphasising that his MNS is the only party, which actually cares for Marathis.

And this is not the first time that MNS has compelled a top-notch filmmaker to grovel by accusing him of hurting the Maratha pride. In the past also, MNS had forced several celebrities and filmmakers, including megastar Amitabh Bachchan, for daring to denigrate the Marathi honour.

Some nine years back, the same moral policemen of Mumbai forced director Hanslal Mehta to tender an apology for a controversial dialogue in his comedy film ‘Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar’. Ironically, neither the Mumbai Motion Picture Producers’ Association nor any top Bollywood figure came to his rescue.

This time also the film fraternity has chosen to keep mum on the issue perhaps, they are too scared to voice any opposition against the MNS’ unethical political game plans and don’t want to land into troubled waters.

In the nick of time, Karan Johar avoided a violent face-off with the MNS, but the question is - How long will we be able to tolerate this nuisance? The recent controversy also points to the apparent impotency of the producers’ guild, cine artists association and various film bodies as they run around Raj Thackeray’s den haplessly.

After cutting his chord from Matoshree and Shiv Sena, Raj Thackeray has been breeding bad blood among peaceful Maharashtrians by using cultural molestation as a potent tool to serve his political interest.

Instead of targeting the real dragons of the society and voicing the real concerns of the common man, MNS has been unleashing a rein of terror through its divisive politics and encouraging the feeling of regionalism, which is further damaging the cultural fabric of our society.

Only the people of Maharashtra can answer how long they can tolerate the ‘Marathification’ of trivial issues and silly restrictions on artistic freedom.

Raj's anti-immigrant campaign can strike a chord with the middleclass Maharashtrians for some time, but in the long run MNS will be required to come forward with a clear-cut agenda of development, progress and welfare for not only ‘Marathi Manoos’ but also for all those who have lived and loved the state as much as the real ‘sons of the soil’.

If Raj Thackeray wants to enter the league of great Maratha leaders, he should lead his people by bringing a shift in his political ideology and by setting good examples of his own, not by violence and dictatorship.

Only time will tell, whether MNS will be able to spring any surprises in the coming elections, but the people of Maharashtra clearly have the choice and power to choose the kind of leadership they want – one which fosters divisions or one which progresses with peace and prosperity.

First Published: Sunday, October 11, 2009 - 16:47

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