Shorts In The Dark

Horses for Maharashtra’s political courses

In many ways, this election also shows the limits of ideology as the nativism of the Shiv Sena clashes with the pan-India glue that Hindutva promises.

 |  Shorts In The Dark  |  5-minute read |   30-11-2019
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The drama in Maharashtra proved yet again why we Indians are so hooked to our three national passions: Cricket, cinema and politics. In terms of pure edge-of-the-seat entertainment, nothing gives more bang for your buck.

Time is of essence here; we like prolonged sequences of events: A Bollywood blockbuster runs for three hours, a Test match five days and a political contest, going by Maharashtra, at least two to three months.

Federalism 101

The unfolding political circus had several consequences, both intended and unintended. Equestrian metaphors staged a comeback, although horses at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse were heard complaining that they had nothing to do with the goings-on and the name of their community was unfairly sullied. One horse I spoke to said: “It was surreal. It was straight out of the Netflix animated series, Bojack Horseman, which features cartoon characters possessing a human body and the head of a horse.” Meanwhile, the cows in Prayagraj heaved a sigh of relief. “We are grateful the spotlight wasn’t on us for a change. We’ve been very stressed off late by our repurposing as political rather than pastoral creatures.”

Maharashtra also proved the primacy of the family to Indian politics, a runaway nephew being just one vital cog. Pawar Senior took all decisions keeping his daughter’s political future in mind. In the early days of negotiations, the Shiv Sena proposed 28-year-old Aaditya Thackeray’s name for CM.

main_aditya-thackera_113019125834.jpgWhile Shiv Sena has vowed to uphold the secular Indian Constitution, the alliance helps the Congress shed the tag of an anti-Hindu party.(Photo: Twitter/ MahilaCongress)

On being asked if he was too young for the job, a spokesperson said: “Tendulkar made his debut for India at the age of 16. The son of a tiger will always be a tiger.” All this must have made Rahul Gandhi feel if he has been unfairly targeted for his dynastic roots. For educated, well-intentioned Indians this has been a hectic year, intellectually. Revoking Article 370 meant that long reading lists on Kashmir were uploaded on social media sites.

Maharashtra meant more timelines were dug up relating to Pawar’s rise and fall and rise, as well as articles and tomes on the Marathas. In short, a better part of this year has gone into understanding the federalism of India. It’s lead to better awareness. In many ways, Maratha pride triumphed as Pawar and Shiv Sena upheld the glorious tradition, following Shivaji, of not bowing to the powers that be in Delhi. While there has been talk of an unholy alliance crumbling under the weight of its contradictions, it’s also true that the push and pull of democracy can have its benefits. While Shiv Sena has vowed to uphold the secular Indian Constitution, the alliance helps the Congress shed the tag of an anti-Hindu party. The authority and respect enjoyed by Sharad Pawar will help facilitate this.

Hybrid Hindutva?

Politicians like to accuse each other of being power hungry, but the truth is that they all are. In this light the BJP is solely responsible for the breakdown of its holy alliance. All it had to agree to was to split the chief-ministership with its Hindutva bedfellow. Saffron status quo would still have been maintained. Instead, the BJP took the high road, leaving the Sena with little option.

In many ways, this election also shows the limits of ideology. The nativism of the Shiv Sena clashes with the pan-India glue that Hindutva promises. The Hindutva-following brothers and sisters of Uttar Pradesh won’t be welcome in Maharashtra; one of the Shiv Sena’s proposals include 80 per cent reservation in private jobs to locals. The ‘Hindu Rashtra’ erects barriers for its own. The outright saffron parties, it seems, have their internal contradictions too.

Over the years, Shiv Sena’s antiminority stance has kept changing in content from religion (read Muslims) to region: English-speaking immigrants from South India who were seen to be stealing typist’s jobs, and ‘bhaiya’ immigrants from eastern UP working as cabbies. In many ways, Raj Thackeray was more the hard-liner of the two cousins and his departure, and the anointing of Uddhav as successor by Balasaheb, led to the Shiv Sena moderating its stance. There was a time when the Shiv Sena was ‘anti-Western culture’.

Message in the ballot

There was a joke in Mumbai that the safest place for couples on Valentine’s Day was Smita Thackeray’s restaurant. It’s a sign of change that Aaditya Thackeray has been campaigning to transform Mumbai’s nightlife.

He wrote in a column: “We don’t have a time zone in our city to simply unwind, chill, step out and be ourselves.” Now that the Shiv Sena is in power, we could see some more steps being taken to convert parts of the city into a safe 24-hour party zone — realise Aaditya’s laudable dream.

Finally, the people of India who have been observing this election can interpret the developments in two ways. One, it shows that Opposition unity is possible under the watch of seasoned campaigners. There is the option of aligning with other parties, and which might be more reflective of the diverse pulls of Indian society. Pragmatically speaking, the fear of the BJP can be a good thing, forcing coalitions to stay together no matter what, rather than fraying out of selfish reasons. On the other hand, the Indian voter might feel: This is what happens when I don’t vote decisively. This feeling will translate into landslide gains for the BJP.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Maharashtra voters can't complain. They have got entertainment worth every penny


Palash Krishna Mehrotra Palash Krishna Mehrotra @palashmehrotra

The writer is the editor of 'House Spirit: Drinking in India'

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