What went wrong with Raj Thackeray?
As a child I have seen and experienced horrific fear psychosis of Balasaheb Thackeray. It was when Shivsena Corporator from Thane, Khopkar was murdered. Later, the then Thane Shivsena President, Anand Dighe’s mother died under natural causes Shivsena called for Thane bandh. Both incidences of ‘Bandh’ have left a mark on my mind. One active and another is passive. After so many years I have realized same kind of fear psychosis, lawlessness, defeat of collective wisdom of society when Raj Thackeray, nephew of senior Thackeray started passing diktats about ‘On collecting Toll’, ‘Sur Kshetra’, passing diktats on Asha Bhosale and public humiliation of artists, thinkers, journalists, intellectuals. The society is the same who is following his diktats, debating on his diktats but nobody surprisingly even government is not questioning his authority to passing such diktats.
Recently, Raj Thackeray has created major controversies. Before heading in to those controversies we have to understand what exactly went wrong with Maharashtra since Bal Thackeray’s rise.
Many Indian thinkers did not bother to give a thought to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s imprints on Maharashtra’s socio-political life. Modern Maharashtra’s four towering personalities left their mark on history as well as contemporary thought process of sensible Marathi manoos (Maharashtrian): Veer Shivaji, Mahatma Phule, LokmanyaTilak and Dr. Ambedkar. There were many others but these four were spearheads of making of ‘Modern Maharashtra’. Among them Dr. Ambedkar was last of the Roman. He was not only greatest Indian but he was political leader as well as socio-economic political thinker and philosopher. This unique combination made him a legend like never before. Today we are thinking in the context of Maharashtra’s current politics so we are taking Dr. Ambedkar’s influence and tragedy categorically in context of Maharashtra. After Dr. Ambedkar’s death within a decade Shivsena rose to being a reactionary force. It was not a co-incidence. Dr. Ambedkar in his life lost elections and failed in electoral politics because Congress was completely against Dr. Ambedkar’s originality and philosophy. The entire movement of Dr. Ambedkar was a political and social movement for liberal democracy. Like today whole political ruling class, mainly Congress, was against any original and liberal democratic thought which goes against their electoral policy of nurturing the herd mentality. So after Dr. Ambedkar’s death Congress politics always nurtured reactionary forces like Bal Thackeray. A very simple example I would like to give. Congress valiantly opposed Ambedkar’s thought and policies but the same Congress supported wholeheartedly Mr. Bal Thackeray and his violent, thoughtless reactionary politics. Once upon a time Maharashtra was a hub for independent and original socio-political thinkers. But Congress, time and again used self-proclaimed political forces like Bal Thackeray to nurture leadership of Maharashtra in hands of people like Pawar and Thackeray who are reactionaries, cerebrally bankrupt and absolute corrupt. Congress is conveniently ignoring Raj’s diktats and his politics which is in league with his uncle’s style. Congress is doing the same with Raj what they have done with Bal Thackeray. Infact, by doing so Congress is not helping Raj in long run but restricting Raj to a small violent force which will not convert or replace Congress in Maharashtra as a ruling party. Whether Raj is aware of this comprehensive politics or no nobody knows but he seems to be content with the small time glory and fame. By doing this Raj is contradicting his promises which he made when he left Shivsena. Initially and even today large numbers of people are looking at Raj as better alternative to rule Maharashtra. But it seems he is neither aware of it nor taking it seriously. Today, if Raj is exact replica of his uncle then why did he form a new political party with the word ‘Navnirman’. This is the question which arises in every sensible mind.
In this context rise of Raj Thackeray, on wrong path drawn by his uncle, is partially his own and majorly belongs to convenient ignorance by Congress. The agenda on this path is lack of vision, cerebral bankruptcy, arrogance of inferiority, creating fear psychosis among people, propaganda of hatred, reaction of thoughtlessness and ultimately power of corruption. Raj imitates his uncle adding contemporary touch. This is in itself dangerous for young politician like him. It’s a political fatal attraction! As mentioned above after Dr. Ambedkar’s death Maharashtra has lost its collective wisdom and originality. This has not happened overnight or in a day. It has taken years. After the end of Ambedkar’s era Maharashtra became follower and has lost its visionary capacity in any Pan Indian movement. Suddenly thinkers faded and disappeared in the five decades and politics of goons and white collared mafias ruled over Maharashtra whenever and wherever required. Raj Thackeray is the child of Maharashtrian people’s this inferiority complex in context of Pan Indian socio-political existence. Raj Thackeray is not the first one. He is repeating old story of his uncle Bal Thackeray. But here I would love to quote Marx- ‘History repeats itself, first time its tragedy and second time its Farce’. Marx wrote in his book about Napoleon and his nephew, Louis Napoleon. But here in a different context we can cite one similarity; Bal Thackeray represents tragedy of Marathi Manoos which leads to his own tragedy ultimately. Now after 45 years of tragedy intellectual bankruptcy of Maharashtra leads to a farce in Pan Indian context and Raj Thackeray has happily chosen himself to be an ideal representative. This is a sad and unfortunate inning by young politician like him. If you see and hear his speeches its nothing more or less than melodrama heading towards nowhere. Same thing applies to today’s Maharashtra. So in a wrong sense Raj Thackeray represents Maharashtra, so contemporary youths feel that Raj Thackeray is their ‘Man’. What appeals to contemporary generation are his style quotient and his farcical behavior! He is here to change the mind of youth for development of Maharashtra and nation ultimately for bigger, larger and global reasons. People love him so he should spread love among his followers to nurture creativity and originality of Ambedkar and pre-Ambedkar era.
What Raj is speaking about ‘Maharashtra Dharma’ and ‘Biharis’ is absolutely shallow and lacks any philosophy, even philosophy of hatred. After six years of forming a party he still speaks about such things and imitates Shivsena’s agenda, it looks like Raj doesn’t have any grand strategy for Maharashtra or any strategy for his followers. He is surviving on tactics which are supported by ruling class as a policy. In reality this support will go against his larger interests in future. These tactics of hatred are not really based on any integrated thoughts but is based on piecemeal ideas like Popcorn. Why he violently humiliated Asha Bhosale, he himself may not be able to answer this question. Same are his thoughts about Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Bihari, Non-Bihari and people from UP. Think for a moment, given freedom, will he be able to fight his make-believe enemies? How will he define his enemies? If he is working within geographical limits of Maharashtra and contesting elections, doesn’t he understand that if Pakistan and Bangladesh are a problem, they are a problem of Union Government of India and not for Maharashtra! Since formation of Shivsena Bal Thackeray is saying, ‘give the military in my hands and I will solve the problems of Kashmir.’ So many questions have not been put up to Bal Thackeray for many years. Whom is he asking to give military in his hands? Who stops him from taking military in his hands? What are his constitutional status and relationship with military and Union Government of India? Ultimately what is to be done to solve our problem through Bal Thackeray’s ideas? Same applies for Raj. What he is talking is absolutely insignificant, irrelevant and nothing to do with his party and himself. But what he wants to do by doing that is very relevant. He is creating terror in minds of budding intellectuals, thinkers, journalists, writers and artists and whoever is in capacity to oppose him or his petty political vested interests. In the beginning of this write-up the fear psychosis which I have mentioned in people’s mind (about Bal Thackeray), in later years I have seen that similar kind of fear psychosis in many part of countries of small time or big political goons. But what I don’t understand is the compulsions of Raj Thackeray to choose this tried and tested static path!
We have seen some latest interviews of Raj Thackeray wherein his body language is offensive and he himself raises questions. This clearly shows that he is indulging in intellectual void coupled with arrogance. This is a problem with the entire contemporary generation. They have lost their identity, their jobs, they don’t have any philosophies and they have lost their center’s within. So, they want some tool or weapon to survive, to overcome any superior foreign or global power. Now because of Raj Thackeray, in this era of globalization, larger number of Maharashtrian youth thinks that power is arrogance, mediocrity, hatred and narrow mindedness. Even many media person who interviewed Raj were co-conspirators of his tactics. What they want to gain is easy fame and what Raj is achieving is easy power through his grandly accepted terror. Pawar, his party (NCP), Bal Thackarey and his party (Shivsena) have not done anything for Mumbai, forget about Maharashtra, compared to likes of Jagannath Shankarsheth and Jamshed Jeejabhoy. When opportunity is there Raj is not taking chance for constructive & developmental politics. A young leader like Raj Thackeray should introspect this reality in present context of his violent politics before it’s too late.
Whatever Raj speaks about Marathi, non-Marathi and what his uncle speaks about Hindus and Muslims is a hoax. They don’t have comprehensive understanding of even an imaginary problem they are talking about. I repeat, for example Bal Thackeray always says, ‘Give Military in my hands and I will solve Kashmir problem.’ Raj is imitating such hollow statements about Bihari’s and North Indians.
If Raj Thackeray accepts his current political style is a benchmark then he is accepting Maharashtra’s decay and degeneration without any objection and leading towards more decay and degeneration.
When Raj formed Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, sky was the limit for him. Initially he behaved in a cultured manner. Two of his famous great quotes from initial days of his parties, which most of the people have forgotten, ‘I will create a Maharashtra which will be envy of the world’ and ‘if your child follows me, their life will not go to waste’. Then Raj realized that to make these statements a reality it required hardship, real ideology, intellectuality and liberal democratic framework. Whereas the path his uncle chose shown to him by Congress that is to destroy originality of Maharashtra. It is much easier short cut for him and his cortege. So he set upon that path very seriously and rest is fear.
In Republic of India, there are some problems within states, especially problems with state’s rulers. Some problems are synthetic and some are real. Within a Constitutional framework we are allowed to fight with each other. Sometimes it could be political, sometimes cultural while at times it could be economical. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand; nobody is exceptional. But we must not stretch these fights and debates to racial discrimination which is crime against humanity and not allowed by Constitution of India. We are here for co-existence that has underlined an outer limit of states within state. We are citizens of India and no one is above anyone. These principles are set by architect of our Constitution mainly Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar because he knew how discrimination by caste, religion, region kills one’s originality and creativity. Here in this context Raj Thackeray is discriminating Biharis and people from UP and terrorizing Marathis subtly; either join hands with me or I will close your chapter. This is destruction of democratic fabric of mindset of any budding creative personality. Any budding creative person either will go for herd mentality or rebel in a void and ruling class will easily target him by calling him dog and shoot him. This is a journey of a society to abyss and nobody is really serious about it, forget about ‘Maharashtra Dharma’ Maharashtra is now almost bankrupt and mediocre cerebrally. It is difficult to believe that it is the land of Veer Shivaji, Mahatma Phule, Lokmanya Tilak and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Cerebral bankruptcy is disastrous to Maharashtra and without an ideologue, social thinkers, intellectuals, creative artists within democratic set up and value, it is impossible to build global state which will be envied at a national level.
I don’t know what went wrong with a generous person and artist whom I knew named Raj Thackeray but most probably his petty minded coterie and followers and their political ambition which is out of proportion in race of time unfortunately make him what he is today. One thing is very certain in democracy, ‘there is no place for diktats and one who passes diktats should be aware that if you look through Indian Constitution then these diktats are nothing but satanic verses’.
Once Raj Thackeray accompanied me to playwright Vijay Tendulkar’s house. Raj had newly formed his political party then. Tendulkar had some wise words to share with Raj. This is directly from the obituary that I have written in memory of late Vijay Tendulkar. Vijay Tendulkar said, ‘In old age (Tendulkar mentioned himself and Bal Thackeray) when old people cry it is not necessary for a specific reason. He can see glimpses of his entire life. Chunks of pieces from his life make him cry. There is nothing much he can do. He arranges and re-arranges the jigsaw puzzle of his mistakes in his mind. Then he realizes he has made a mistake. Then he starts crying. What else can he do? Hence young people should ignore when old people cry. Our generation has made Himalayan blunders. You have to bear the consequences. The next generation will bear the brunt of your actions. Then you will cry. Your cries should not be taken seriously then. At least commit some mistakes now. You have your old age to cry for!’ When Tendulkar says ‘Commit some mistakes’ he means ‘you follow new path and commit mistakes instead of following the path chosen by our generation.’
It seems that Raj has chosen to imitate even mistakes of Vijay Tendulkar’s generation. This is a real tragedy within a farce.