Just when we thought that political discourse could not become more parochial and negative after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray’s tirade against migrant workers from UP and Bihar, the Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray has proved us wrong. Instead of taking estranged cousin Raj head-on for his tunnel vision, Uddhav, the heir apparent to Shiv Sena supremo Balasaheb Thackeray has weighed in against migrant labour in the modernisation of Mumbai airport. He chillingly spoke of how outsiders would be packed off in a parcel and sent back in a cargo plane. And to think that Uddhav was considered a moderate to his volatile cousin’s over-the-top politics.
The Mumbai police, after dragging their feet while MNS workers were belabouring hapless Samajwadi Party activists on the streets and threatening to widen the conflict, have now filed an FIR against Raj for inciting violence. If fearful migrants had hoped that Thackeray Sr had seen the error of his ways leading the campaign against south Indian workers decades ago, they are barking up the wrong tree. In retaliation to Raj’s politics of belated imitation, the Shiv Sena has become a poor copy of the MNS. While all these ugly shenanigans are going on, two things are clear. One, that neither the MNS nor the Shiv Sena has any vision for Maharashtra with its myriad problems like farmers’ suicides and urban decay. All they seem bothered about is playing to the galleries in Mumbai as if Maharashtra began and ended in the city. Two, even as far as Mumbai is concerned, neither has any constructive agenda to get the tottering megalopolis back on its feet. Their outdated and regressive rhetoric suggests a sharp disconnect with reality. As we have mentioned in these columns, some of Mumbai’s most famous sons and daughters have origins outside the state.
This narrow-mindedness could well rebound on Maharashtrians outside the state. It does not seem to have struck either party that what they are propounding is blatantly illegal and unconstitutional. Every Indian has a right to travel and work wherever he or she likes. It is ironic that we are clamouring to set up businesses abroad and work and study in foreign countries while trying to stop our own people doing the same within their own country. Publicity is the lifeblood of parties like the MNS and Shiv Sena. But surely there are more constructive ways of staying in the news than to preach the sort of divisive politics that will bring only disrepute to a still great city.