Over past few days, Raj Thackeray and his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have become vocal over certain issues. The MNS opposed the Supreme Court order on dahi-handi festival and even felicitated groups that took part in dahi-handi celebrations without following the restrictions imposed by the apex court on the height of dahi-handi. On Monday, his party workers forced open chicken shops in Dadar that had been shut as per the orders of the civic body on the occasion of Paryushan Parv—fasting period of Jain community.
Whether the authorities should force other communities to shun non-vegetarian diet because a particular community is observing fast is a contentious matter but it is quite clear what the MNS is up to. It wants to reconnect with the Maharashtrian voters especially the young voters who turned to the Shiv Sena and the BJP in the last Lok Sabha and assembly elections. In the run up to the civic polls, the MNS may get more and more aggressive in its ways to regain lost ground. It is not alone. Other political parties too have similar motives and trying different ways for the same. In next six months, almost all parties will find different ways to woo different communities and even divisive tactics to score over each other.
But do they really know what Maharashtrians in Mumbai want? Do Maharashtrians really want poor north Indian vendors or cabbies to be beaten up or chased away?
In fact, what a Maharashtrian in Mumbai wants is no different than what an average Mumbaikar wants from the political parties that want to run our state or city governments.
There is change in the environment as compared to 1970s and 80s when Sena gained strength. Then jobs were largely based on manufacturing sector and limited opportunities were available.
Now, majority jobs available are based on sectors such as service and information technology and in the changed circumstances more opportunities can be created with better infrastructure. Maharashtrian youths want opportunities to be created rather than seeking their monopoly. That explains why they responded to Narendra Modi’s appeal for development in 2014 after voting for the MNS in large numbers in 2009.
In the past two decades, the significance of Mumbai has reduced. It is no more the only city if major corporate houses or multi-national companies want to set up their head offices. It happened because of the crumbling infrastructure and inability of successive governments to create new growth centers in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and build better transport and housing infrastructure.
As the rate of new commercial establishments being set up in Mumbai slowed down, it also affected the job market and youths in this area lost several opportunities. Since then things have still not changed beyond a limit. The rate of infrastructure development is too slow.
On the other hand, some parties created an atmosphere that made commercial establishments wary of setting shops in Mumbai. None of the parties or governments gave priority to ensure education needed for the jobs in the emerging sectors in the new economy.
Another major problem, the Maharashtrians are facing is housing. Most can’t afford to buy houses in Mumbai and other areas in the MMR which are convenient for daily commute. Will the politicians actually talk about who made houses costly here? Who have been partnering with builders? Who helped owners of factories in and around Mumbai to shut down their units (which meant many workers including Maharashtrians losing jobs) and sell the land to builders for luxury housing projects?
And while they are at it, has anybody bothered about the children of Marathi mill workers? Has any party or governments run by any party provided opportunity to youths from these families or ensuring that they get houses in Mumbai?
Our Netas want to rake up emotional issues to garner votes. They are not keen to tackle real issues.