Monday, May 19, 2008


It was with a degree of consternation that most people watched Raj Thackeray’s young army of party-workers attacking Indian citizens from Bihar and UP inside Maharashtra. Was regionalism surfacing again as a new centrifugal force in India? How much traction would it find amongst Maharashtrians? Why have these tendencies not blunted with time? And, is this the start of more violent identity politics?

I discussed these questions with Professor Suhas Palshikar, a political scientist and professor at the Pune University and an expert on Maharashtrian politics. He says, “This is a very short-term strategy by Raj Thackeray because the Maharashtra elections are around the corner. Three years from now you may not hear him saying these things.” He adds, “This is part of the majoritarian brand of politics that does find traction even amongst moderate people.” Raj Thackeray keeps his message conveniently vague invoking a sense of hurt inflicted upon Maharashtrian culture and sentiments and towards the economic status of Maharashtrians. Professor Palshikar says, “He does not want to tie his hands and so his position is ambiguous. The message seems to be that outsiders will have to remain within bounds.” “Regional majoritarianism has good appeal and it is the easiest policy to adopt while entering politics. He wants to gain ground away from the Shiv Sena and there is a space for this kind of regional, identity politics. His strategy will be to be a spoiler in the coming elections.”

Founded only in 2006, Raj Thackeray’s
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena will contest its first assembly elections next year.
PS: How can a political party have the very militant word ‘Army’ in it? How can Maharashtra Navnirman Sena or Shiv Sena be allowed? (And just incidentally, both uncle and nephew, Raj and Bal Thackeray are admirers of Adolf Hitler.)


'Tis a beautiful life! said...

What did we do so wrong that we had to inflicted upon with yet another Thackeray?

Sathej said...

Well, its surprising to know that the majoritarian brand of politics finds traction even among moderates.Education and refinement, I believe, cultivate a sense of tolerance and moderation. And regional intolerance, even within a country, is as low as it can get. How different is this from the colonial 'divide-and-rule' policy?
As for the word 'Sena' being in the name of a political party, I guess an army, at the outset, is not militant. So, its ok, if the 'army' is for a good cause rather than for such petty regionalist purposes. As for being admirers of Hitler, oh, I didn't think such ideas would really exist in the present world!

Unknown said...

Well its usually the "minorities" which are an easy target all around (coz they have poor protection of their rights).

The "minorities" here happen to be "North Indians". This happens around the world in different forms e.g., UK anti-immigration sentiment, malay for malaysians, Sri-Lanka for the sinhalese, the recent South African violence against Zimbabweans?

Facism usually starts in a subtle manner. Anti-immigrant on to anti North Indian on to anti-Marathi speaking onto anti-Bombay spelling and so on. Some of this is amplified by the media (nothing personal). For e.g., why does the media always turn to the "Mullah" or the "God man/Woman" if they want a minority view? The "Mullah" certainly does not represent me nor does he have any expertise in governance.

I disagree with your apparent perception that centrifugal forces are resurgent. I think the country has come a long way (it still has a very long way to go though) since it was decided in the 50's to form states in line with languages spoken (or something in those lines anyways).

There is a sense of much better unity and one would only have to track levels of violence, law and order (I am not a statistician!) and one would probably find a decline in inter-regional or inter-community violence in general.

I also disagree with "Education (such as people with PhDs)" cultivating a sense of tolerance. More often I find "Educated" are sometimes the most bigoted unfortunately. I think Education in a sense of broadening one's mind is more apt for a inclusive thought process. Unfortunately plenty of people who are "Educated" are quite narrow and they happen to be the people in power sometimes.

I agree with your statement that the word "army" should not be present in any modern political party. Can you imagine a political party called "Muslim Army"!. Even if it has progressive thought process I would doubt seriously if any Indian muslim would vote for it. Fortunately we in India have been blessed with more moderates than the extremes.
I wonder what Hitler would have thought of them.

Aditya said...

I think the Professor is right and if you notice, even Shiv Sena later resorted to the same antics -- chanting for the well being of Marathi manoos. In fact the Shivsena can never be far away from it because it is them who started it all more than two decades back. I also wonder how (and why) does "Jai Maharashtra" (seems to) evoke more sentiments in the heart of the average Maharashtrian because I am yet to see a "Jai Hind" anywhere. I see it as another way of advocating regionalism. Evoking regionalism is, well, playing with fire.

A few months back I wrote on the same topic at and it evoked quite a response. It's not long, maybe you'd like to read it here.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Oncloud9... I wish I could begin to answer that one.

Sathej - I still think that a political party with the word Army in it is not an outfit I would be comfortable with.

Arif you've made some good points. And in fact I agree with you that "education" doesn't necessarily mean a more enlightened view. The Indian diaspora are great admirers of Narendra Modi. That should tell us something. I don't argue that centrifugal forces are resurging. I don't know if they are but an initial reading of the situation would make it appear that they are.

Truman I read your questions to Raj Thackeray. They underscore the bankruptcy of his message.

Sathej said...

Well, in the context of education, aren't broadening of one'smind and tolerance self-implicit qualities of an educated person? And I didn't necessarily mean academic qualifications as stand-alone features of an 'educated' person. And well,education cultivates a sense of reasoning and must be well utilised to develop the above-said qualities. In short, education is a probable way to remove such fascist/regionalist tendencies, but is not a sure -success route. After all, if some people don't want to change their ways, nothing would get them to-be they educated or otherwise.