Every journalist who has travelled to Maharashtra says the state is the loser in this election. Last night I met two politicians who had just returned from Mumbai and said that they had no clear idea who would win but Raj Thackerey has certainly emerged as the new charismatic leader in the state.
All I can say is it serves the Congress right. Once again, the grand old party of India has succeeded in making a mountain out of a molehill or in this case Marathi Manoos hero out of a minor entity who had been thrown out of the of the Balasaheb Thackeray clan and the Shiv Sena some years ago. That was the time to let Raj flounder and maybe perish. Instead, the Congress secretly nourished him with all too obvious plan of cutting into the Shiv Sena’s vote.
Once upon a time, the Congress tried the same strategy with Bhindranwale in Punjab and paid such a bloody price. There are other demons the party has played footsie with. Now in a different age and context, the Congress party gifts the nation the reinvented Raj Thackeray. Good luck to the people of Maharashtra including the Marathi Manoos, members of the film industry, who like Karan Johar will now cower before the new Thackeray, and the hard working people who travel to and work in the state but are lumped as “Biharis” and “outsiders”.
I have a very simple wish-list for Maharashtra that does not include the defeat of Raj Thackerey, the Congress-NCP or BJP-Shiv Sena (though would be delighted to see all of them kicked out). I fervently hope all the sons and daughters, nieces and nephews who have been given tickets for the assembly election are badly defeated. Raj Thackerey will be a local problem for Mumbai and Maharashtra to deal with. But the most dangerous trend across the country is the brazen perpetuation of family rule and political bloodlines.
After the Congress’ convincing win in 2009, the social sanction for this appears to have increased. No one thought it fit to stop the son of president of India from securing a ticket and contesting the Maharashtra assembly elections at the cost of a local candidate. We may have got rid of monarchies but elections are now just a vehicle for the divine rule of a few families across the land.
People have to start protesting, the media should keep raising the issue because we are in fact subverting the entire logic of social change through the ballot. As the economy slows down politics is still a profitable industry and the netas increasingly want to keep it all in the family. Over the past few years I have written two cover stories on dynasties for Outlook and there is no point in again listing the clans who now control the country.
The Maharashtra elections mark a new low as the dynasty disease has now spread to the BJP and for the first time the party that once targeted the Congress for family rule has calmly given tickets to kith and kin of established leaders. The disease was already rampaging through the Congress and NCP. It is a zero sum game for the average citizen of India to watch this spectacle of sons and daughters fight in the political arena.
On the national stage, the Congress, in the manner of the benevolent ruler, has tried to cover its flanks by giving its government a pro-poor face through schemes like NREGA and Rahul Gandhi’s forays into the Indian heartland. But these are cosmetic gestures. What will eat into the innards of our political system is the growing hold of a class of rulers, somewhat like the nobility of the medieval age. To save democracy from just being a tool for feudalism by other means we have to start protesting.