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Friday, Aug 16, 2019

No ‘Khan Market’ in Mumbai, only pro-Modi SoBo club

When Modi used the term “Khan Market gang” last month in the closing phases of the general election, it was to mock the group of the entitled, the liberals and leftists.

mumbai Updated: Jun 27, 2019 01:02 IST
Smruti Koppikar
Smruti Koppikar
Hindustan Times
The movers and shakers of Mumbai – therefore, the nation – sit pretty in south Mumbai
The movers and shakers of Mumbai – therefore, the nation – sit pretty in south Mumbai(File Photo )
         

What and where is “Khan Market” in Mumbai? Assuming this city has the equivalent of New Delhi’s posh and pricey hub of luxury shops, watering holes and edgy eating houses amid the cacophony of paved streets, overhead cables and Partition history, it certainly would not be Juhu-Bandra, as an economist-historian and adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have us believe.

In a remark unbecoming of his stature, the gentleman tweeted this week: “Khan Market has been tamed. Perhaps Juhu-Bandra should be next”. There was a sense of the sinister and vengeance in the first sentence as if those who frequent Khan Market – politicians, writers, artists, journalists, activists and others who may be ideologically opposed to the government of the day – were some kind of wild and savage beasts.

The second sentence was intriguing. How would Juhu-Bandra be the equivalent of Delhi’s Khan Market? When Modi used the term “Khan Market gang” last month in the closing phases of the general election, it was to mock the group of the entitled, the liberals and leftists, the power brokers of Delhi who he believed hung out there and decided the agenda for the rest of India. That derisive jibe has since become a convenient handle to whip the entitled or liberals and leftists.

It was a clueless reference, as many pointed out. Juhu-Bandra houses some of the wealthiest and most famous names in India, but is hardly the nerve centre of political power broking or national agenda setting.

All of Juhu-Bandra is hardly posh and pricey. They are separated by a few miles and both have large swathes of middle-class residents and working classes living in slums. If Juhu and Bandra together set an agenda, it would be for Hindi film industry, fashion, and Page 3 culture. Of course, there are shopping arcades and watering holes here, but liberals would not want to be seen in these places and leftists would not be able to afford them.

The movers and shakers of Mumbai – therefore, the nation – sit pretty in south Mumbai. Rather, south Bombay or SoBo as it rolls off tongues in the tony parts here. From the tip of Cuffe Parade to the golden mile of Altamount Road and quiet power of Malabar Hill-Napean Sea Road where reside some of the most powerful men and women of India, from the genteel luxury of private dining rooms in starred hotels where business deals and political pacts are inked to the uber exclusive clubs at Breach Candy and Mahalaxmi, where political economy acquires a new flavour altogether over rare and expensive liquids, they are all here far away from Juhu and Bandra.

When old Bombay had political and ideological relevance in the pre-Independence years and immediately after, south Bombay held sway. From Lokmanya Tilak to Mahatma Gandhi and others, they all lived in these parts. When working classes rose in protests and subalterns declared their presence, it was in the old textile mill areas, slightly north of south Bombay. The Left and leftists threw anchor in and around Lalbaug, Parel and Elphinstone Road. The streets here and mill compounds witnessed pitched battles between leftists and nativist-nationalists like Shiv Sena workers.

When the ‘Bombay Club’ and liberals grouped together first to resist Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru’s socialist policies in 1950s and then to rally against Manmohan Singh-PV Narasimha Rao’s economic reforms in 1990s, it was in the tony parts of south Bombay or Worli.

The 10 most expensive pieces of real estate in Mumbai are here – Altamount Road, Cuffe Parade, Walkeshwar, Malabar Hill, Napean Sea Road, Peddar Road, Marine Drive, Breach Candy, Churchgate and Kemps Corner.

In these parts were heard repeated refrains this summer that Modi would be voted back to power “with a bigger bang”. It happened exactly that way. The movers and shakers here are hardly liberals-leftists.

If anything, the “south Bombay gang” is lock-stock-barrel firmly behind Modi and the new idea of India with its majoritarianism and muscular nationalism. Modi’s men wouldn’t want it “tamed”. The Khan Market sentiment is scattered across Mumbai. It cannot be easily tamed.

First Published: Jun 27, 2019 01:02 IST

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