Not with swords and daggers



The Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena like to believe that the Mangeshkar sisters belong to them. In fact, not just belong to them – the Thackerays believe that they own these national assets.

Both Bal Thackeray and his nephew have been fighting over Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosale ever since Raj Thackeray split the Sena to form his own party in 2006. In the late 1990s, as Raj was about to set up his own parallel employment agency – the Shiv Udyog Sena – with some help from Michael Jackson, Lata Mangeshkar helped his project along with a immensely successful fund-raiser show for Thackeray’s nephew.

But then the family, as the party, was united. After the split, Raj clearly expected her to side with him. She chose to attend a Bal Thackeray event instead, clearly demonstrating who she held in higher esteem. Raj suffered another body blow when even Asha Bhosale seemed to veer away from him with a statement against his anti-North Indian campaign, stating that Bombay belonged to all and that she did not care for the attempts to divide Indian society.

Now Raj is getting back at her by threatening the doyenne against appearing on a show on at last two Indian television channels (and one in Pakistan) which is a competition between Indian and Pakistani singers, with Abeeda Parveen of Pakistan and Runa Laila of Bangladesh as the other judges.

We have known for a long time that the show will begin to air from September. So why should Raj Thackeray have woken up so late to this fact? Not to mince any words, there are clearly two reasons: the MNS and the Shiv Sena are habitual offenders in this respect and raising objections now rather than when the show was announced several weeks ago would emphasise the urgency for a speedy settlement of the issue.

And although the Shiv Sena, too, has joined this bandwagon, Raj is further energised by the success of his rally last week against the violence by some Muslim groups at Azad Maidan in Bombay on August 11. I could see clearly from his stand that he had received some covert support from the Congress authorities to go ahead with a rally that was not allowed by the police. He abused and targeted everybody among the police and politicians, sparing only the Congress which should actually have borne maximum blame for letting things go out of hand in a state led by their party in government.

However, the prospect of a benevolent hand of the ruling party on its head now seems to have emboldened Raj enough to threaten violence against the Indian studios airing the show and the artistes participating in it. I wonder how much leeway he will now be given by the government – will he really be allowed to go as haywire as he did during his anti-North India campaign or will he be squeezed again as the Congress-led government did when they began to get diminishing returns from turning a blind eye to his shenanigans?

As chief minister, the late Vilasrao Deshmukh was convinced that he had been asked to go after the 26/11 attacks by Pakistani elements on the city, not for the attacks per se but because north Indian leaders like Lalu Pasad Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav who were supporting the UPA government at the Centre, had been nursing grudges against him for not reigning in Raj and his men during that anti-North Indian campaign.
Then, at the 2009 elections, the Congress discovered that the MNS was actually easting into their own votes and the incoming dispensation tightened the screws on the MNS by squeezing Raj Thackeray’s ample business interests in the state.

That sent most of the MNS into a shell from which they did not recover until late week’s covert Congress support to their leader revitalised them and revived their interest in rampages. I do not understand why the Congress cannot see how dangerous it is to harbour elements like the MNS who always tend to turn into Frankenstein’s monsters sooner rather than later.

Pakistan has some good singers but I hope to see Indian singers beating them on the show and there could be no better means to defeat Pakistan than by bringing home to them the fact that they have only a small slice of what we have in ample measure. Of course, there are many Pakistani singers like Rahat Fateh Ali Khan who have richly contributed to Indian music, too – tunes that are surely hummed even by Shiv Sena and MNS workers during the lighter moments in their troubled existences.

Fortunately, just in anticipation of such a problem, the organisers had shifted the initial shooting to Dubai; I do not really know how it might pan out now, in terms of shooting or airing the competition. But I do hope, the Maharashtra government is not stupid enough again to allow Raj a free rein as they had done in the past. After all, Ajmal Kasab, one among the ten perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks, is now finally on death row. We have proved we are a civilised nation, giving everyone a fair chance but we spare no killers or mass murderers.

The Shiv Sena had been screaming for Kasab’s head from day one, asking that he be lynched and hanged from the nearest tree. Sadly, had we given in to those base sentiments, we would have been no better than Pakistan and if we do not allow a civilised settlement of who is the better of the two nations, every which way, we will indeed prove that we are no better than Pakistan.

I am no dove in matters relating to Pakistan but I also do not want to be represented by the likes of Raj Thackeray who heads a party of very few thinking individuals and mostly comprising goons and gangsters. It might help his political agenda to position himself against every `other’ person, Indian or otherwise, Muslim or even otherwise. But to me that is a divisive agenda and I certainly do not wish to be his kind of Indian, working against the spirit of the country and its Constitution.

So while I have no interest in long-drawn television reality shows, I think I will watch this one. And I will be rooting all the way for Himesh Reshamiya, keeping my fingers crossed that his team soundly boots out the Pakistan team – through a show of talent and not of swords and daggers.

And I also hope that Asha Bhoasale will once again tell Raj Thackeray off as soundly as she had done the last time around, with that single act destroying the agenda of someone who would have us believe that all Maharashtrians agreed with him. Clearly Raj Thackeray speaks only for himself and not even for all his fellow Maharshtrians. And most certainly not for the rest of us – all Indians.

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