I thought by now I had seen it all and nothing our politicians could do would ever surprise me. But I had barely got over Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad’s selfie impersonation when another more serious act comes to light - this time a graver case of misrepresentation.
Gaikwad, after beating up an Air India employee, had become a hero overnight to his followers who wanted selfies with the man. But Gaikwad had little time to pose with the people. So he fished out a look-alike who willingly obliged to stand for the selfies. I do not know if the people were aware they were getting a photo with the duplicate instead of the original, but this act seems to follow a trend in the Shiv Sena as it now turns out that another MP, Gautam Chabukswar, has taken a leaf out of Gaikwad’s book and created an impostor for himself. But this time the offence has been more serious because it involves not just some selfie-obsessed individuals but the dying farmers of the state.
Both the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party have been rather bushed by the very successful Kisan Sangharsh Yatra undertaken by the combined opposition in the state who have been visiting different parts in phases since March this year. The yatra is being undertaken under the blazing sun of the hot Maharashtra summer, and many leaders from both the Congress and the NCP have suffered heat strokes. So after pledging not to travel in the comfort of their plush cars, they have had to take to the cool comfort of an air-conditioned luxury bus. Nevertheless, all certified original opposition leaders like former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar have been making contact with farmers and putting the government on the mat . In the early days of the yatra, many Shiv Sena legislators made it voluntarily to the villages where the opposition leaders were meeting with farmers. But the hot sun has been very punishing and has pushed them indoors.
Now when Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray asks them to formally make contact with the farmers, one would expect his party MPs would obey. But far from this, Chabukswar sent along another party functionary in his place. It would not have mattered so much if the alleged impersonator would have made it clear to the farmers that he was representing their local MP. The offence was compounded, however, when he tried to pass himself off as the original, though now both he and the MP have denied that they ever conspired to fool the voters.
However, apart from the seriousness of the impersonation, I think an equally important question such an act raises is how seriously do his party MPs take Uddhav Thackeray? Would such a brazen defiance of a party chief’s diktats ever have happened in the time of Bal Thackeray? Sadly, I must say the Thackerays have never led by example. Bal Thackeray was always ever afraid of taking to the streets while he ordered his Shiv Sainiks to go on rampage. However, there was a good deal of fear and respect for Bal Thackeray among his loyal army. Today, though Uddhav Thackeray is not calling upon his Shiv Sainks to lay down their lives for their party he, too, is not leading from the front. He is being called upon to venture not into the burning streets but only under the blazing sun, but even that he cannot undertake. It is this attitude and the ignorance that follows that had brought forth ridicule upon him from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar, who was quick to pounce upon the Shiv Sena’s lack of knowledge with regard to rural realities.
Travelling through the cotton districts of Vidarbha while the UPA was in power, Uddhav had not known how to distinguish between kapashi and parati -- which was no distinction at all. For the two words are rather like kapas and ruiee in Hindi which are both the correct words to describe cotton in different forms. Uddhav had rued that the government was offering minimum support price for parati but not for kapashi.
Now, as leader of his party, he must do better - unless he gets out of the cool comfort of his air conditioned home and grinds his heels in the heat and dust of Maharashtra’s villages, it is unlikely he will command the respect of his party MPs. Look-alike, anyone?