Wanted not boors but Bhadralok

Ajit Pawar, Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister, not very long had said he thought you needed pugnacity and aggression to be a successful politician.

Accordingly, he had even admitted a notified criminal into the Nationalist Congress Party and proudly declared from the public platform that the party needed “such men” to grow and expand.

The subsequent outrage in Pune forced the criminal to resign from the NCP but, given his proclivities, no one should have been surprised when Ajit offered to urinate in Maharashtra’s dams during a severe drought in April this year to make water available to farmers.

Since then the NCP has not just lost a whole local self government election on its own home turf of Western Maharashtra in Sangli which was preceded by a lot of abuse of rival parties, including the Congress.

The more worrying factor to his uncle, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was the mere nine per cent vote that the NCP polled at a by-election in his daughter Supriya Sule’s parliamentary constituency.

The NCP came in last, the Congress was first, followed by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and the BJP.

Clearly Ajit’s arrogant and abusive style is not being appreciated by the masses in his own fiefdom and, as a political analyst recently told me, the nation is tired of such foul mouthedness and is seeking a change.

Hence the future will belong only to those who are seen as cultured, refined and what my friends in Calcutta would describe as bhadralok.

So I think Maharashtra’s politicians got it absolutely wrong when they brought out their worst side while attacking celebrity writer Shobhaa De who had put out an innocuous tweet the day the Congress announced its willingness to concede a Telangana state suggesting that Bombay, too, would want to separate from Maharashtra soon.

Now I know as a matter of fact that the nuances of the English language are beyond the politicians of at least Maharashtra, particularly those belonging to the Shiv Sena and the MNS.

On many a occasion they have failed to understand my own sarcasm even when I have tried to say it as bluntly as possible within that limitation – there have been times, more than once, when some one or the other has either texted or called me in gratitude for `thinking’ they are better than their rivals.

There have also been occasions when I have dreaded speaking the truth about some one or the other and all that I got in terms of a protest was the rival calling me to say, “You are being unfair by thinking only he is like that. Even I am so,” — even if what I have stated has been unflattering and uncharitable.

So I am not too surprised that all the politicians in Maharashtra missed the nuances of De’s tweet – she merely meant that giving in to Telangana would raise all sorts of demands including one for a separate city state of Bombay which was neither a new idea nor a unique proposition.

But even for a hardened cynic like me, I was stunned at the venom and viciousness of the responses. All parties jumped into the fray but I picked out three as the most obnoxious – from Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena, from Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and from Nitish Rane of the Congress who seems not to have shed the Sena culture of abuse and aggression that he had been weaned on while his father Narayan Rane was a star leader of Bal Thackeray’s party.

I presumed Raut was putting Shobhaa in his her place for being a supporter of Raj Thackeray – she was one of the few respected writers who had been gentle in her criticism of Raj at the height of his Marathi manoos campaign against North Indians and I thought the empathy was because, as a fellow Maharashtrian, she had a better perspective on what ticks and does not tick with Raj Thackeray.

Raut called her a drunken Page 3 celebrity but surprisingly Raj was not too far behind in getting personal and saying that a separation of Bombay from Maharashtra was not as easy as getting a divorce, whatever that might mean, for De was divorced from her first husband a very very long time ago and seems happily remarried and in no need to march to the family courts again.

But it was Nitesh Rane who threatened to strip her of her `Shobha’ and I thought that did not, well,  give `shobha’ to him or behove a man young enough to be her son too well. I wonder he never had a thought after the fact that it is these kinds of comments and aggression, alien to the Congress culture, which has gone against his father in a report sent to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi on why the party could be finished in Maharashtra if he were ever to be made chief minister.

I am gad then to see instructions going out from Rahul Gandhi to his party spokespersons to refrain from personal attacks against opponents and particularly Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi who is another leader of late who thinks little of making the most disparaging and despicable remarks against all sorts of people including gentlemen like Shashi Tharoor and his cultured and soft-spoken wife Sunanda as well as the far more refined Sonia Gandhi and even the minority community as a whole.

All my life as a political journalist, my ears have frequently gone red at the things that leaders like Bal Thackeray have said against opponents, particularly women and I had hoped that his passing would put an end to such foul-mouthedness in public life.

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