It’s not just the Shiv Sena. Raj Thackeray seems to have the BJP running scared too. In a last-minute attempt to tackle the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) growing influence across the state, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Sunday unveiled a Vision 2020 Charter of Commitments.
The rather bulky document promises, among other things, to promote the Marathi language (‘without hurting the sentiments of outsiders’) and rid the state of power cuts by 2015.
Among the more bizarre proposals was one that promised compulsory Marathi classes for non-Maharashtrian taxi drivers.
The party has, however, studiously avoided the ‘outsider’ issue, since its core votebank comprises north Indians.
The BJP’s change of heart is most likely a reaction to the fact that the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, which ruled the state just 10 years ago, suffered a humiliating defeat in the national election in April.
“In these times, when asmita (regional pride) is an important issue, no party can afford to ignore it,” said Prakash P., political analyst and head of the Political Science Department at Pune’s Fergusson College.
Speaking at the unveiling, state party president Nitin Gadkari invited the public to send in suggestions for the ‘vision document’, describing it as ‘the BJP’s plan for the state over the next 20 to 25 years’.
The charter focuses on 26 sectors, including agriculture, energy, employment and rural development.
Thirty pages long, it is unclear whether key party functionaries have actually read the entire document.
While the Vision Statement clearly says the BJP would rid Maharashtra of power cuts by 2015, a rather revved-up Gadkari, speaking after the press meet, said this would be done in two years.
How? There were no details forthcoming, neither from Gadkari nor the Vision Statement.