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Raj Thackeray: Not Beyond Redemption?

Raj Thackeray: Not Beyond Redemption?

January 05, 2012

Can we bank on the controversial politician to revive public trust in politics?

No one can deny that politics in India needs a major facelift today, considering that anti-politician sentiments are worsening with every Lokpal-less day that passes. Most of us wouldn’t place our bets on Raj Thackeray for reviving public trust in politics, but to me he seems like the most likely candidate for the job.

In the past, I thought he was a bit loony. “Mumbai for Maharashtrians” was, and still is, a dumb idea. Mumbai wouldn’t be Mumbai if it weren’t cosmopolitan. Taking that characteristic away from Mumbai would leave it no less competent but far less attractive. Also, it is not wrong to preach pride in one’s identity, as most Maharashtrian politicians have always done; it is wrong to deny someone an opportunity based on language and state barriers.

But Raj Thackeray seems to be giving that up. He still makes demands for Marathi in call waiting services and such (which ensured, if nothing else, that everyone here now knows how to say, “Your call is on hold,” in Marathi) and on shop boards, but these demands tend to be largely legitimate. So while his methods of threatening and perpetrating violence have not changed, the issues he chooses to take a stand on nowadays, are real. Autorickshaw-blackmail, mismanagement of school transport systems, and uneducated netahood are some of the problems he has tried to solve, in the following manner:

1.)    MNS party workers beat up rickshaw drivers.

2.)    MNS party workers assaulted a school principal.

These events are highly condemnable, and an insult to the law as well as to human dignity. But he attempted to tackle the third problem admirably: he announced that anyone wishing to contest BMC elections on an MNS ticket would have to write an exam that would test their knowledge about the BMC and local self-government. Not many politicians have been brave enough to do that.

There are other things about Raj that inspire hope. The MNS has no apparent bias towards any religion, caste or class. How many parties in India can boast of that? You could say that the MNS flag (blue, white, saffron, green) tries too hard, but it makes the point.

He is an excellent orator. There is a candour in his speeches that guarantees them a place in the mobile phones of almost all young Marathi people, not only in Mumbai but in other Maharashtrian cities as well. Even if I may not appreciate what he says sometimes, I cannot help but marvel at the way he says it.

He doesn’t have much at stake now in terms of votes, so he can afford to take a non-populist and practical stand on the Belgaum issue. Maharashtra and Karnataka are involved in a dispute over which state the half-Marathi city of Belgaum (which is in Karnataka) belongs to. Raj Thackeray stated that Maharashtra had enough problems of its own and couldn’t afford a border dispute. That might not be tactful, but we all know how troublesome border disputes can be.

Most importantly, he is an example of charismatic leadership. If we are to make politics truly popular, charismatic leaders are our biggest hope. Charisma can be dangerous when paired with a divisive ideology, but if the news is anything to go by, it appears as if Raj used the Marathi/North Indian issue solely to rise to prominence quickly. We can hope that’s true and that potential like Raj’s is not lost forever in undemocratic practices. 

13 Comments

  • Abhishek
    By
    Abhishek
    23.02.12 11:31 PM
    Jaai,I get your point.He cant just get away with it..But my only problem is when same thing happened outside Maharashtra media never criticized other parties or their leaders.I just dont like the way media targets him only and not others..
  • Jaai
    By
    Jaai
    23.02.12 06:34 PM
    Abhishek, I forgot to mention this in the article, but I do have another problem with Raj: the examples he uses to justify what he does. Just because a particular state of party does something wrong and gets away with it, doesn't mean it's fine if we do it too. It definitely doesn't mean that we go out of our way to do it. Maybe it's not merit-- maybe they accept lower wages.
  • Abhishek
    By
    Abhishek
    23.02.12 12:04 AM
    Jaai, you are right, everyone must have a right to work everywhere on d basis of marit but even according to Indian Constitution you can work anywhere UNLESS you are afecting locals with jobs
    AND thier basic rights and Raj has said he is not opposing skilled professionals, he is just opposing migrants who come here,get free homes,get free water,get free electicity etc.
    Are migrants working on d basis of merit?.No... To some extent they are stealing jobs..which is happening mostly in maharashtra ..In South states you cant survive without thier languages Forget jobs.. In South States even when they want labours on contract basis ,thier language is also one criteria
    I agree Raj's way is wrong (beating)But it has happened in Asam where Asamis killed Biharis (FACT)IN Karnataka Locals beated North Indians when they had came there for Railway Exams(FACT)
  • Jaai
    By
    Jaai
    14.02.12 12:39 PM
    I'm not judging him on the basis of Hindi media, or even Marathi media. They're all unwatchable. I wrote these on the basis of his speeches and news items dealing with facts. Also I think everyone must have a right to work wherever they want in this country, based on merit and competitiveness.
  • Abhishek
    By
    Abhishek
    14.02.12 12:07 AM
    please don't judge raj on the basis of hindi media(it's bullshit)You may find me crazy but whatever he has said so far is right(believe me) yes u cant beat people but a single city (surrounded by sea) can't take responsibility of some unsuccessfully governed states..
    if railway recruitment ads for maharashtra(especially in mumbai)will b posted in bihar and up (thier newspapers)how d local from mumbai will come to know
  • vaibhavGhevde
    By
    vaibhavGhevde
    19.01.12 07:55 PM
    Hey! all he asks is you to know the language and be able to speak a little bit. That's it. He did not ask any non marathi individual to get a PHd in marathi ?!. ;)
  • Jaai
    By
    Jaai
    17.01.12 07:13 PM
    @Vaibhav: I don't think even forcing the language is okay, actually. But yes, he can do wonders.
  • vaibhavGhevde
    By
    vaibhavGhevde
    16.01.12 10:29 PM
    I think, Forcing the language is . . . Ok, trying to get people out of here not. And yes lets hope, its only for popularity, because he can do wonders.
  • Jaai
    By
    Jaai
    08.01.12 12:23 PM
    I am in no way forgiving him for what he's done and all that he continues to do. This is more of a predictive article. Apart from the fact that unchecked migration of employment-seeking-people is a very real problem in Mumbai (it is; how you choose to deal with it is a different issue, but the problem is very much there) and one that finds resonance with Marathi people, he takes fresh stands on various issues. You'd see the anti-North-Indian thing fading somewhat if you follow the news. His party hasn't started very large-scale poll campaigning yet, but the day it does, they're going to surprise. Like another commenter on the Facebook link to this post said to prove something completely different, he could be the next Narendra Modi. Plus (and I sound like a schemer here) he could make us like politicians again; or at least find them interesting enough to listen to them.

    @Joseph Jones: Et tu as in? There's someone else who thinks like me?
  • Deepak
    By
    Deepak
    06.01.12 11:36 PM
    well said..
    if people like raj increases in numbers, apparently India will break in to states, like SOVIET.
    Dumb ideology and attacking Indians in India in the name of state.
    I value him for one good thing,
    recently he conducted examinations to select candidates for some polls, which is damn new of it kind !

  • Joseph James
    By
    Joseph James
    06.01.12 08:41 PM
    Et tu Jaii!
  • Vishal
    By
    Vishal
    06.01.12 05:19 PM
    Please don't patronize him. Raj Thackeray may be all that you have stated, but he's someone who has incited this apparent hatred in Marathis for North Indians. Bringing him to power would make him probably take actions which lead to negative growth in our state (I won't elaborate coz it might end up being too long). I think it's best he's left a little helpless where he is, else things might get worse than they already are thanks to Shiv Sena. MNS already has cultivated an image of being a ruthlessly violent party that wants to beat people and vandalize property at the drop of a hat.
  • shirish patwa
    By
    shirish patwa
    05.01.12 04:31 PM
    I don't see any flattering qualities in Raj to suggest that he can be a hope in the present state of the bankrupt politics and politicians of India.Good oratory can take a person to certain level of popularity but it cannot sustain the image forever.Vajpeyee is a good orator but he has the balanced mind that can carry entire nation with him.Hitler too was good orator but his destructive philosophy brought the world on the verge of total destruction.There are innumerable examples where a person caught the imagination of public on the capital of one or two good qualities but failed miserably for want of philosophical maturity.Taking few popular issues cannot make a person to be called a
    great leader.
    I am a great fan of Sadhvi Rithambhra and appreciate her discourses on Lord Krishna.But her political and social speeches are nothing short of venom.Certain points she raises appeal to me and others but overall India will be better off without leadership of her type.That is why I don't give much importance to the packing material and insist on quality of the thing within.

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