A day after CM Devendra Fadnavis brokered peace between Raj Thackeray and Karan Johar for the smooth release of the film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, ally Shiv Sena, political opponents, celebrities and civil society activists panned it as an extortionist deal.
Criticising Fadnavis’ intervention and what transpired on Saturday, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said, “We still don’t have complete information on the meeting at Varsha [the CM’s residence]. But I have got one piece of information. The three of them together are now going to make a new movie, ‘Yeh Toh Hona Hi Tha’ [This was bound to happen].”
Shabana Azmi, actor and activist, said, “What a sorry state of affairs. The CM brokers a deal and buys patriotism for Rs5 crore after the Union Home Minister had promised peaceful passage for ADHM.” Similarly, author Shobhaa De branded the enforcement of a Rs 5-crore contribution to the Army Relief Fund in exchange for ADHM’s peaceful release as a “price tag on patriotism”. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal too weighed in on the issue, saying the “BJP will ruin the country”. Twitter saw a number of people panning Johar for giving in Raj Thackeray’s blackmail, while a campaign to boycott the move #boycottADHM too continued.
Uddhav Thackeray’s remarks come at a time of growing differences between his party and the BJP in the run-up to the 2017 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections.
In Maharashtra’s political circles, Fadnavis move is being seen as a part of the party’s strategy to give the MNS a lift ahead of the BMC polls to combat the Sena in its traditional strongholds.
Incidentally, a boycott of Pakistani artists, authors and other personalities has been a long-standing agenda of the Shiv Sena, which last year forced the cancellation of a concert by Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali and protested the book launch of former Pakistan Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.
The MNS is the Shiv Sena’s direct competitor in Mumbai, with both parties espousing the ‘sons of the soil’ theory and targeting Marathi voters. With the coming election being more about the MNS’ political survival after being battered in the Lok Sabha and legislative assembly polls, Saturday’s meeting was a shot in the arm for the party, helping it show Raj Thackeray’s political muscle in Mumbai.
And Uddhav Thackeray, camping in Panaji , Goa, ahead of assembly polls next year was not amused at the BJP helping his cousin. Uddhav Thackeray said, “The Indian Army has its self-respect. So, it does not need any money eked out of extortion. If you want to help, then do it from the heart. Whatever you want to do, do it straight from your heart. ‘’
On Saturday itself several high-ranking officers had criticized the move saying the armed forces should not be used for political purposes.
Fadnavis on Saturday mediated talks between Raj Thackeray and director Karan Johar for the smooth release of ADHM, starring Pakistani actor Fawad Khan, at his residence ‘Varsha’ in Mumbai. After the meeting, movie producers succumbed to the MNS’ demand of not casting any Pakistani actors in the future and also agreed to give Rs5 crore as “penance” to the Army welfare fund. The Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had earlier threatened to stall the Diwali release of the movie.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) polit bureau released a statement condemning Fadnavis’ role, saying the chief minister facilitated extortion. “The chief minister is under oath to uphold the constitution and the rule of law. By this action he has negated the constitutional mandate. This also creates an environment of fear to stifle freedom of expression.
Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Lalu Prasad Yadav said parties should not drag the army in “cheap politics.” “Some people are asking for votes in the army’s name, and some notes. Have some shame. At least spare the army,” he tweeted.
Mocking the chief minister’s intervention, Congress legislator from Maharashtra Sanjay Dutt said, “An appeal to the people of Maharashtra. All those facing extortion threats, please contact CM Devendra Fadnavis for amicable settlement.