Fluency in Marathi is important if you want to join the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) without any hassles. An MNS membership drive is on in the city, but if you are not from the state and do not speak in Marathi when you approach the party to sign up, you will need to produce proof of identity and residence.
The MNS enrolment drive has been on since September 7, and those who can speak Marathi — Maharashtrian or not — sail through the application process without having to produce any documentation.
When MiD DAY sent a Hindi-speaking decoy applicant to an enrolment booth at Narpatgir Chowk, he was told to provide his residence proof.
At the same time, Marathi people who approached the booth for membership were asked to provide just their photographs. Akshay Redij, who recently took membership of the party, said he was not asked for any identity proof.
“I was just asked for three photographs and told to put my signature on the form,” Redij said. “There was nothing else I was asked to do other than this.” MNS city president Balasaheb Shedage confirmed that party workers were not asking Marathi people for any kind of identity proof while non-Marathi people were not being given membership without identity proof.
“There is no guarantee about the non-Marathi people who come from other states,” Shedage said. “It is difficult to know whether they have committed any crime back home. The sole reason behind this rule of ours is to make sure these non-Marathi people are really interested in getting membership and are not here with the aim of misusing the party name for any petty purposes.”
He said identity proof was also not being asked from non-Marathi people who were fluent in Marathi. On the question of how the party was sure Marathi people would not indulge in criminal activities, Shedage said in their a case it was easy for the party to find their location in the state as they were residents of the state.
Party city vice-president Ajay Shinde said it was “Saheb’s” (MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s) order to not give party membership to non-Marathis without identity proof. “In last year’s membership drive, many non-Marathi people became our members, but we didn’t ask them for any identity proof,” he said. “From this year identity proof has been made compulsory to avoid future problems.”
Reacting to the MNS enrolment procedure, the BJP city unit criticised the MNS practice and called it discrimination. A BJP insider said its membership drive was also on for a month and the party was not asking for any kind of proof from anyone.
“We are just asking whether the applicant’s name is in the voter list, irrespective of the state he or she belongs to,” a BJP member said, requesting anonymity.