Party with anti-migrant agenda invited Manoj Tiwari as chief guest for its event at Kandivli; political analysts cite upcoming BMC polls for the courtesy

Strange bedfellows indeed! The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which bagged a constituency in Maharashtra on a rigid anti-north Indian poll plank, asked Bhojpuri superstar and onetime Bigg Boss contender Manoj Tiwari to grace a cricket tournament in Kandivli (East) last evening as the chief guest.

Pre-Poll drama: Akhilesh Chaubey, general secretary of MNS' legal
wing, felicitates Bhojpuri superstar Manoj Tiwari at a cricket tournament
organised by the party in Kandivli yesterday. PIC/Shadab Khan

Akhilesh Chaubey, general secretary of MNS' legal wing, confirmed the unexpected appearance. "We have good relations with Tiwari, so we invited him. He was not the only celebrity there, many other Marathi stars were also present at the event," he said.

If anybody needs any reminding, after breaking away from parent party Shiv Sena in 2008, Raj Thackeray's MNS forced the political klieg lights on itself with its vehement anti-migrant stand. The party founder's ire was directed towards north Indians inhabiting the city, apparently wresting jobs meant for the Marathi manoos from the legitimate sons of the soil. However, it appears that the pre-poll period has whittled down its poll plank.

Why else would a party that authored the violent agitation against north Indians three years ago call upon a Bhojpuri sensation?

Political observers placed the event and the invitation in the context of the upcoming BMC elections, scheduled for February 2012. During the assembly polls in 2009, the party had used pamphlets in Hindi language to lure north Indians ('Pro-Marathi MNS campaign in Hindi', October 4, 2009, MiD DAY). This time as well, the stunt seems designed to lure north Indian voters, especially those in parts of Kandivli and other western suburbs that have a dominant migrant population, observers said.

'Any harm?'
Questioned about the invite, Tiwari responded by asking, "What's the harm in attending an MNS event? Yes, there were problems at one point, but if things are normal now, and the going is good, why should I not attend an event I have been invited for?" Incidentally, in the 2009 general elections, Tiwari had contested on a Samajwadi Party ticket from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.

It is worth noting that the MNS had raised objections to the screening of Kamal R Khan's film Deshdrohi starring Manoj Tiwari. It is equally significant that the MNS made a debut in the milk trade with its very own product Mumbai Doodh: Swaad Maharashtracha, admittedly "to bring the monopoly of a particular political class in the milk industry to a halt," as party leader Ram Kadam put it ('MNS milk plans to drive out migrants', Dec 12, MiD DAY).