Regionalism returned to the centre stage ahead of 2012 civic polls when Congress Lok Sabha member Sanjay Nirupam on Sunday said at a function in Nagpur that north Indians can stall Mumbai’s day-to-day functioning if they want to. The Shiv Sena was ready with a rebuttal on Monday when its executive president Uddhav Thackeray dared his former colleague, warning of dire consequences if Nirupam acts on his assertion.
But ex-Sena Rajya Sabha member Nirupam accepted Thackeray’s challenge saying that the party should learn to accept the reality instead of threatening him with physical harm.
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan then stepped into the debate and said that the government will not allow the city to be shut down on anyone’s whims and fancies. “People from all walks of life live in Mumbai and everyone works with the help of others. No one will be able to halt the progress of Mumbai by sponsoring a bandh.”
Sounded the pro-immigrant bugle, Nirupam said: “If newspaper vendors, milkmen, taxi drivers, green grocers and all the other north Indians in the state’s capital strike even for a day, Mumbai will come to a standstill. North Indians are the lifeline of Mumbai and some parties are trying to inflame the sentiments of people for their selfish political gains.
Maharashtra has to accept the contribution of north Indian people to its overall progress. People should unite and stand tall against forces that are trying to create a rift between north Indians and the Marathi-speaking people.”
Thackeray responded by saying in a media conference that his party workers “will break Nirupam’s teeth” if he tries to stall the city’s functioning with the help of north Indians. “Any person who tries to break Mumbai away from Maharashtra will not be spared. During the 1992-93 riots, it was the Shiv Sena that protected north Indians.”
“Nirupam has no identity left in the Congress. He is doing this for publicity and to attract north Indian voters,” said Thackeray. He demanded to know whether the Congress endorses Nirupam’s views. “For the Congress, the issue of corruption has become too big and hence the party is trying to divert attention of voters by talking about caste and region.”
Nirupam told Hindustan Times that his observation is based on facts and underlines the importance of the north Indian community in Mumbai. He advised Thackeray to refrain from issuing threats.