On an October night in 1966, Udipi hotels in Dadar were ransacked and their south Indian owners beaten up. It marked the arrival of Bal Thackeray and the Shiv Sena on the state’s political scene.
More than four decades later, the two warring Thackeray cousins, Raj and Uddhav, bent on staking claim to his legacy, are following in his footsteps and trying to thrash their way to power.
Bal Thackeray made a political fortune for himself reviling south Indians and Muslims. Now, the target is north Indians, and it happens to be that majority of the auto and taxi drivers in the city are from the north.
The public is currently furious with these drivers, especially auto drivers who went on strikes and held the city to ransom twice in two weeks. Both cousins are trying to cash in on the public mood and earn brownie points with Mumbaiites.
The provocation: The elections for the country’s richest municipal corporation, which has a budget close to Rs 20,000 crore, is just four months away.
The Sena’s strength comes from the civic bodies it controls, especially the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, which has been in its control for 15 years.
After pushing the Sena to the fourth position in terms of Assembly seats in Mumbai in the 2009 state polls, Raj now wants to ensure that it loses power in the BMC.
It’s little wonder then that he is flogging the same issue that paid dividends at Assembly polls — north Indians. Not wanting to be left behind, Uddhav has reacted to the MNS call to take to task “outsider” auto drivers.
However unlike Bal Thackeray, who had only the Communists - who were ideologically poles apart - to contend with, Raj and Uddhav have to fight each other.
By announcing the agitation against auto drivers and union leader Sharad Rao, Raj has stolen a march over his cousin.
Rao has already trounced the Sena in the BEST Employees Cooperative Credit Society and has now threatened to take a morcha to Matoshree.
“Uddhav seemed to have missed a trick. Politically, it is his cousin Raj who seems to be setting the agenda, which the Sena is then forced to follow,” political analyst Surendra Jondhale said. Sena MP Sanjay Raut disagrees. “We don’t ape any party’s agenda. We are just working to ensure Mumbai’s citizens don’t get fleeced or face hardship,” he said.