To be or not to be
The Uddhav Thackeray led-Shiv Sena has been dealing with tricky situations ever since it came to power in Maharashtra, the deployment of its 'Brand Thackeray' politics being one of them
The situation has become so tricky for the Shiv Sena that it gets questioned when it acts in accordance with 'Brand Thackeray' politics and also gets a rap when it attempts an alteration to its known pattern. The Sena picked a fight with actor Kangana Ranaut over her defamatory remarks against the CM and Mumbai, but it didn't finish the job as expected. In the ensuing fracas, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) distanced itself from the ruling partner's style of execution.
The NCP asked why Kangana should be given so much importance and completely ignored her even as she tried to drag the boss Sharad Pawar into the controversy. Meantime, the party's mouthpiece Saamana appealed to Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president and CM Uddhav Thackeray's estranged cousin, Raj Thackeray, to join the effort of saving 'Brand Thackeray', which 'alone could fail the evil plan' of appropriating Mumbai and defaming Maharashtra by running smear campaigns.
With so many arduous things at hand — some beyond one's control and some man-made — Uddhav Thackeray's 10 months in the top office appear unparalleled for very many reasons. Power came to him accompanied by many dangers, mostly political, that don't seem to be fading away soon. The global COVID-19 pandemic slowed the government's pick-up. The calamity has affected the entire country, with Maharashtra at the top. Six months have passed without signs of recovery. Mumbai is back to square one after making significant progress two months ago. The state's pandemic curve is on the rise; so is political activity — an out and out man-made exercise that has kept a lot of leaders in the vote-bank vocation busy.
The CM's promise
In this development, the CM's decisive response was missing. The wait ended on Sunday when Thackeray returned to addressing the state after a long gap. He broke the silence, finally. "Some people think that the pandemic is over and the normalcy has been restored to do politics again. My silence doesn't mean I don't have any answers. I will definitely shed the CM's mask (protocol) one day to speak about the conspiracy to defame Maharashtra. As of today, fighting the Coronavirus is my top priority," he said, adding that his government was resolved to march ahead in the adverse conditions (purportedly created by the BJP and compounded further by the pandemic).
The CM's political statement should please the people who despised his party earlier but of late see in him a moderate leader trying to alter the Sena's image. It also seemed to be peppered with advice for his party leaders and workers to be patient in dealing with certain people and situations, especially when the Sena is in power. The CM's advice appears apt at a time when the MVA adversaries are finding a ground for demanding the President's Rule in Maharashtra.
Laced with how-to-avoid-infection tips, the CM's speech was short of offering much hope in regard with a way forward in unlocking. But he insisted, finally, that it is the people, who, henceforth must share the burden of securing themselves and their families with the government.
People, it's your turn
"The government has taken the responsibility so far, but it is time you also contributed more responsibly," he said, inviting criticism from BJP's spokesperson Keshav Upadhye. "What have people gained from the CM's speech? Did he say anything about unlocking — Mission Begin Again? This government doesn't have a concrete policy to tackle the out-of-hand pandemic," said Upadhye in a statement.
Another concern that the MVA government faces is the Maratha community's ire over the staying of the reservation in jobs and education. The Supreme Court's decision early last week has added an awkward dimension to the MVA politics. After basking in the glory of giving Marathas a quota, the BJP has accused the Sena-led MVA of spoiling the case in the apex court. Promising a resolution, the CM appealed to the community to not protest in the streets, and shifted the blame by calling the Supreme Court's decision of staying the quota an 'unexpected and unfathomable ruling'.
The court's interim order has affected now-in-process college admissions, infuriating the Marathas. The community's vast strength, seen protesting silently in the streets during the erstwhile BJP-Sena regime, may not recur because of the pandemic. But then politicians know very well that the Marathas, despite being split ideologically between the BJP and the MVA, aren't expected to take things lying down.
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore
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