The actor Sanjay Dutt has familiarised all of India with a very evocative Bombay-specific word — maamu. No, that does not mean maternal uncle as people in the north might presume but making a fool of someone very adeptly as Dutt’s character did in the blockbuster film ‘Munnabhai, MBBS’.
Now I do think that Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has made a ‘maamu’ of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray and might be laughing behind his sleeve. For, I refuse to believe that either Fadnavis, who is a lawyer, or officials of the government of Maharashtra did not know the law or even of the 2013 Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the turning of government bungalows into memorials for departed leaders.
But on November 17 this year, as the Shiv Sena was commemorating the third anniversary of Bal Thackeray’s passing, Fadnavis made a grand announcement that a memorial to Thackeray would come up at the Mayor’s bungalow adjunct to the beach at Shivaji Park. Now the Mayor’s bungalow is not private property and Thackeray had held no constitutional position in his lifetime ever to merit government property as a memorial. Even former president APJ Abdul Kalam’s retirement home in New Delhi could not be turned into his memorial precisely because the Supreme Court had decreed against such conversions of government bungalows into memorials.
So did Fadnavis not know all this or, if he did, why did he string Uddhav Thackeray along? I am inclined to think that Fadnavis was getting his back on the Shiv Sena, which has been proving a troublesome ally, constantly yapping at the BJP’s heels and that Fadnavis made the promise knowing full well nothing will come of it.
However, in the meantime, he could play the regretful ally who had tried and had been overruled by courts and procedures. It would help to cool the Shiv Sena down and the BJP could buy time until the crucial Bombay Municipal Corporation elections coming up in February 2017. I wonder how long it will take Uddhav to realise he had been had and resume hostilities with the BJP once more.
For it is not going to be easy to overcome the Supreme Court ruling and now even Raj Thackeray, Uddhav’s estranged cousin and his own brother Jaidev Thackeray have been growling about what they see as the Shiv Sena’s land-grabbing tactics.
Raj, in fact, has categorically said so soon after Fadnavis’s announcement but few have paid attention to Jaidev Thackeray — he asked why, when the Thackeray family has ample land and property across Bombay, do they not convert one of these into a memorial. Or if none of these suits, he said, the Shiv Sena owns enough money to buy a suitable property for a memorial.
But still the Shiv Sena has been after grabbing a corner of Shivaji Park for a memorial ever since Thackeray’s funeral was conducted there. But the Maharashtra government is itself in dispute with the Bombay high court about who owns Shivaji Park — the government or the citizenry — and has been steadily refusing the Shiv Sena on this count.
But the idea to turn the mayor’s bungalow into a memorial, to be fair, comes not from the Shiv Sena or the BJP but from Sharad Pawar — the original doyen of all land grabbers, if I might put it that way. Sometime in 2013, Pawar decided to intervene in the dispute between the then Congress-NCP government and the Shiv Sena to suggest that the mayor’s bungalow could be converted into a memorial.
At that time he was looking at anti-incumbency being faced by both the UPA government at the Centre in which he was a minister and the Congress-NCP government in the state, and was hoping the resolution of the memorial crisis would ingratiate Uddhav to him to such an extent that the Shiv Sena would extend support to his party in event of a hung assembly in Maharashtra, if not in Parliament at the centre.
But with then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan taking a tough stance, nothing came of it and the results to the Lok Sabha were such that Uddhav had no need to feel grateful to Pawar for anything.
Now Devendra Fadnavis seems to have taken a leaf out of Pawar’s book and is taking Uddhav Thackeray for a royal ride. How long before Uddhav catches on, one does not know but one thing is certain — the mayor’s bungalow will not be turned into a memorial anytime soon and certainly not for Bal Thackeray. How long the truce then lasts is a toss-up and a million dollar question that might have no answer.
As Bal Thackeray’s birth anniversary approaches (January 23), I wonder where the Shiv Sena supremo’s legacy has disappeared barely two months after his passing (on Nov 17, 2012). Read more
Sometimes, I despair for the Shiv Sena after Bal Thackeray. Many of the party’s leaders have learnt well from the Sena supremo but I believe it is high time those who have inherited Bal Thackeray’s party unlearn all that the Sena tiger taught them and chart thir own course, for that is the only road to survival. Read more
“You used to be such a good girl! What’s happened to you in the last month or so?” Bal Thackeray once asked me sometime in the mid-1990s. Read more
Some years ago, there was a Congress minister in Maharashtra, destined for greater heights nationally, who was caught out with a famous Bollywood actress in a hotel room in Bombay. Read more
With my regular driver on leave, I decided not to hire another one — I thought it would give me the much-needed opportunity to re-familiarise myself with the public transport system of Bombay that brings with it its own insights as well as sights and sounds that the rolled-up windows of your own car completely shut out of your life. Read more
Long ago, at college in Nagpur, I had a friend -very smart, very stylish, very attractive and, of course, very brave. It was from her that I learnt never to have any holy cows in life but at that age I thought she carried both her profanity and irreverence towards people, situations and also social mores a bit too far. Read more
Speaking to a man in the know, the other week, I was rather amused to hear him describe the situation in the Nationalist Congress Party rather succinctly. Read more
Poor RR Patil. Apart from the fact that he has not been having a good week, what with the July 13 serial blasts in Bombay and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan pointing out that decisions regarding law and order are delayed, he is under attack from even his own party men. Read more
When McDonald’s first launched in Bombay, I remember, some NGOs took several children from the slums to this chain of restaurants for a treat. When one child was asked to comment how he had felt eating his first McBurger, he said, “I think I love our own vada pav better!” Read more