Rahul Gandhi coined the slogan ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’. It was taken up by no less a person than Uddhav Thackeray, chief of the Shiv Sena, who had some axe to grind with his ‘Hindutva’ partner, the BJP! The slogan cut no ice with the masses who were happy with the houses built for them in the villages and the toilets and roads and electricity. They were also happy about the direct transfer of money into their bank accounts and, most of all, they were mesmerised by the oratory of Narendra Modi. His name alone was enough to win two consecutive Lok Sabha elections. The RSS was overjoyed. Its dream of a Hindu Rashtra loomed in the horizon! It smelt the possibility of the dream turning into a reality!
I have known only one other politician who could keep the crowds so mesmerised with the spoken word. That man was Balasaheb Thackeray, the founder and self-appointed senapati of the Shiv Sena. The Congress government of Vasantrao Naik thought it would use the hold that Bal Thackeray commanded over the lumpen elements in the city to loosen the grip of the Communists and other left parties on the labour unions in Mumbai.
That plan unravelled. The Shiv Sena became a headache to the authorities, the police in particular. Bal Thackeray started by targeting South Indians, concentrated in the Matunga area of the city. The Madrasis, as all South Indian communities were called in Mumbai, had cornered all white-collar jobs coveted by the locals. They had to be frightened away! So, the Sainiks went around snatching their lungis and leaving them embarrassed on the streets.
This exercise did not last too long. It caused more mirth than fear, and had to be quickly abandoned. Bootleggers’ dens and gambling addas were then targeted but that, too, had a very short shelf life because the raiders and the raided came from the same stock. They soon joined forces for their own economic advantage.
And then the supremo turned into a Muslim baiter. Though this target was arguably more acceptable to the Sena’s foot soldiers, it was not easily achievable. Fifteen per cent of the city’s population followed Islam. That was a sizeable number. Besides, most of the city’s criminal gangs were led by the members of this community and that was a major obstacle! My purpose of spelling out these facts, as garnered by me during my brief spells of duty in the city of my birth, is to impress on the reader that the idea of Hindutva was not the guiding principle that gave birth to the Shiv Sena. This outfit was formed to oust the leftists from labour unions. The Sena’s followers consisted mainly of lower-middle class Maharashtrians, harbouring dreams of ascending into the ranks of the middle class with the help of the lumpen, who abounded in the city afflicted by the evils of runaway urbanisation.
The BJP, which was not able to retain its junior ‘Hindutva’ partner, is now accusing the Shiv Sena of treachery and more! But I for one am not convinced that the Shiv Sena was or is a dyed-in-the-wool Hindutva outfit. That cloak was draped much later after the previously chosen targets failed to fulfil the role that the Jews in Hitler’s Germany played in the rise of fascism in that country.
My understanding is that a great majority of Shiv Sainiks have no visceral hatred for Muslims. Some anger has crept in after the jihadi terrorist strikes that caused innocents to die in train blasts. And then came 26/11 which killed more than 150, including, incidentally, 40 odd Muslim men and women waiting at the main railway station to travel to their villages.
Distrust of ordinary Muslims is confined mainly to the city’s more affluent trading communities. They find it difficult to understand their dress, their customs and their laws which allow men to abandon their wives through triple talaq! The reversal of the court’s judgment in the Shah Bano case through subsequent legislation played a major role in the entire process of demonising Muslims.
Hindutva’s core adherents will not number more than 20 per cent of the city’s population. Even the BJP itself is now made up of numerous new entrants poached from ‘secular’ parties. They will cross back when power shifts. In the state Assembly, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is busy trying to prove his loyalty to Hindutva only because the former chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, is accusing him of being a traitor to ‘Hindutva’! My view is that the Sena adopted Hindutva as a route to political power. It is not its core belief.
Further, I believe that they are both wasting governance time. The people they govern are not really concerned with Hindutva. They want good governance, which means primarily the supremacy of the rule of law. And, of course, a better quality of life! The newly installed chief minister should understand that!
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