By Gautam B Thakker
It is no secret that Raj Thackeray makes great TRPs. Every time the man comes out and gives a speech—a barrage of journalists, TV panelists, and armchair analysts get to analysing what he says and what it means. There is something clearly enduring about him. His words resonate across Maharashtra. Perhaps, it is too early to write him off.
Forgotten contributions, and the repercussions of a ‘bandh’
While in Pune on a business trip, I talked to a bunch of students, entrepreneurs and housewives on the benefits of structured finance. Post our discussion, the conversation turned to Maharashtra politics. It was the students who led the talk. A bunch of them, including the housewives, had taken part in the Maratha Morchas. A Maratha Morcha is usually a silent, non-violent march of people with a singular demand: Reservation for the Marathas.
Maharashtra is a rich state, both in terms of economic power, and culture. The state generates more income and remains the dream destination for businesses. It also produces a significant amount of content through regional and Hindi cinema. However, a majority of the Marathas feel that their contribution has been overlooked because the central government is focused on the problems of other states. A 50 year old gentleman in the audience said:
This is perhaps true. A ‘bandh’ in Mumbai would shut down the financial capital of India and cause a loss of hundreds of crores to the exchequer. With the silent Morchas, the Marathas have started uniting. There is resentment and anger. This could turn dangerous and destroy everything in its way, including a few illustrious political careers.
Will MNS give Marathas their rights?
The part that generated the most interest was that a large section of the audience believed Raj Thackeray to be the answer to the Maratha problems. There is a convincing argument to this. Raj Thackeray started off with a bang, but a clear lack of political strategy, bad timing, lack of credible second rung politicians, and the eventual defections have led many to believe that the time has come to close the chapter on MNS and Raj Thackeray.
But, there is a twist in the tale and it is gathering momentum, as we speak.
Raj Thackeray has been fighting for Maratha rights since day one. He has been adamant in his stance that Maharashtra and the Marathas deserve more. This has finally struck a chord with the public.
A housewife from Kothrud questioned during the discussion: “Instead of spending money on LED lights or expensive statues, why not create facilities for farmers or education or more job opportunities? Raj Saheb has been saying this from the beginning. First agriculture, then infrastructure and then the jobs will follow too. A large part of the discussion post this was about the vision Raj Thackeray has been outlining for the Marathas.
BMC polls knocking: Raj Thackarey to answer?
Currently, all eyes are on the upcoming BMC polls. These BMC elections will predict the way different parties strategize for the Assembly elections in 2019. The Congress, Shiv Sena, and the BJP have been wooing non-Maharashtrians aggressively for support in this race. These moves have not gone down well with a large section of the Maratha community.
Citizens hope for good roads and an improved railway infrastructure, and then ultimately face disappointment at the hands of the Central and State governments. It looks like this election year is not going to be any different.
The Marathas genuinely believe that it is time for a leader who speaks about their issues first. This will ensure that Maharashtra progresses economically and otherwise. And they seek this solution in Raj Thackeray. The Marathas may just overlook every political mistake that the MNS has made in the last 7 years, and back the only leader, who, according to them, talks their language and will stand for them. They might not have voted for him, but they have started rooting for him and echoing his ideas. Hence, it may be a bit too early to write off Raj Thackeray. If Indira Gandhi could bounce back after imposing the ‘Emergency’, anyone can.