Shoving Sena

Shoving Sena

The common man in Mumbai, with his defiance of the Shiv Sena, has shown that he could do what his government could not. The theatre and multiplex owners had initially voted with their counters against the ability of the Maharashtra government to enforce the rule of law in the city, by refusing to release the Shah Rukh Khan film ‘My Name is Khan.’ But they have now shown the courage to show the Sena its place, which was lacking in the government. It was not just the rule of law that was the issue; freedom of expression and the ability of the government to ensure free run for the normal social, cultural and commercial activities of people were also involved. The message from the free passage of the film in the face of all the threats is for the government to heed and learn from.

The vandalism unleashed by the lumpen Sena cadres was only a few hours after chief minister Ashok Chavan warned against resort to violence and, giving a mixed signal, called for a political dialogue over the issue. The Sena had created an issue out of Shah Rukh Khan’s comment that Pakistani cricketers should have been included in the IPL league. Chavan’s offer of dialogue sent out a message of capitulation. The Shiv Sena had always thrived on appeasement and on competitive chauvinism. After the setback it received in the assembly elections, the rise of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena which threatened to steal the vicious wind in its sails and the resistance from its own allies to its anti-North Indian campaign, the Sena had to invent a cause to come back into the reckoning. The Maharashtra government actually prepared the ground for it with an order that made knowledge of Marathi compulsory for taxi drivers in Mumbai. NCP leader and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s deference to Bal Thackeray on specious grounds also encouraged the outfit.

The short point is that appeasement and dubious deal-making with narrow, chauvinistic and violent groups on the margins would only weaken mainstream politics and lower the credibility and effectiveness of the government. Whenever politicians in Maharashtra tried to appropriate the parochial sentiment on which the Shiv Sena thrived, they have lost and the Sena has gained. This time too the Sena would not be unhappy. But it did not win, thanks to the people, and the loser is the chief minister who cannot say ‘My Name is Chavan’.

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