I am born here and most of my childhood has gone in Girgaon. Late Pramod Navalkar, a Shiv Sena leader was my neighbor and mentor, rather he was the one who introduced me to journalism at a very young age. Since then I am in love with Thackeray’s because they gave me a sense of belonging. Balasaheb was very close to my heart and when I was growing as a journalist, he always gave me time and support. He received his one and only Lifetime Achievement Award from me in 2012 (The Newsmakers Achievers Award). I miss his presence a lot, however, Raj fills that vacuum. Somewhat, he always reminds me of Balasaheb, in his fearless, bold, no-nonsense, keeping people at their places and above all, he speaks with a conviction that is an exact replica of Balasaheb. Sadly, Uddhav has failed to carry this legacy.
Raj Thackeray’s politics is inspired by Balasaheb Thackeray. It seems as if he is walking in the very footsteps of his uncle. Just Like Balasaheb he is an artist and has a proper idea for development and beautification of cities, concerned for people of Maharashtra, and above all, he is brave enough to render his voice.
Raj Thackeray is always very practical in approach. He has a proper vision for town planning and this is evident by the works his party carried in Nashik. He himself claims that town planning is his hobby. His blueprint for Maharashtra, which he had released in 2014, had a solution for almost every problem right now Maharashtra is facing. In 2019 he spoke more on the problems, which common people suffered in day-to-day lives like proper transportation, better city infrastructure, adequate water supply, jobs for youth. Going beyond political interest he tried convincing people not to get bullied by false waves and winds. But, in India money plays a greater role in creating chronicles of politics. Money knows no honest voices and able leadership.
People never supported Uddhav Thackeray for his merits and qualities, they always voted for Balasaheb’s Shiv Sena. If we observe the political campaigns of Shiv Sena we can understand how they make use of emotions to gain votes for their party, in their campaign, they always indulge in blame game but hardly speak on their achievements and virtues. Five-years in alliance with BJP they kept on people that Shiv Sena is the party of Balasaheb Thackeray. Similarly, in 2019 elections they released the movie ‘Thackeray’ based on the life of Balasaheb so that people of Maharashtra could be driven to polling booths.
On the other hand, Raj is a lone combatant; he always gives proof to prove his points. Raj does all that what media and opposition need to do in a democracy. Without taking any names he not only stands alone but also stands tall in speaking for the interest of people. MNS might have lost grounds in state politics, but no one can ignore his presence, because he is the dark horse of the state politics. People say, “who after Pawar?”, I say its Raj Thackeray. You hate him or like him, he would be always an inevitable part of state politics.
When Maha Vikas Aghadi made its way to power, Devendra Fadnavis met Raj Thackeray and that created many speculations and opinions. Meanwhile, Shiv Sena joined hands with NCP and Congress, it was expected that Raj Thackeray could lead a new role. Assembly Election 2019, MNS of Raj Thackeray won only one seat and 2.3% vote share, but still, political bigwigs make rounds to his corridors.
While Uddhav evolved beyond Hindutva, by joining hands with secular ideologies. This gave one of the good opportunities to Raj Thackeray to make a passage closer to the Hindutva philosophy. Shiv Sena was under attack since it came to power with assumed mismatched or unparalleled ideological party Congress and NCP. In the meantime, BJP also needed a quick replacement in place of Shiv Sena. After forming the alliance with Raj Thackeray, BJP would be able to spread a message that the other Thackeray is going to stand by us with pure saffron agenda.
It was speculated that on 23rd January 2020 on the birth anniversary of Balasaheb, Raj Thackeray would announce the tie with BJP. On the same day, it was expected to unveil the party’s new identity a saffron Flag featuring Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji’s seal. The old flag of MNS was replaced with a new flag. Along with “Marathi Manoos”, now Raj Thackeray will have more of Hindutva agendas at large. It was also expected that BJP and MNS would jointly contest the local body elections in Maharashtra. This alliance between BJP and MNS will benefit either in respect of vote share or for giving the harsh challenge to Shiv Sena. So, keeping in the view for better prospects for Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, and Raj Thackeray met and allegedly decided to go together. But there is no official confirmation on these media circulations.
MNS was always projected as an image of anti-North Indians but took Muslims and neo-Buddhists along with them. This alienated the majority Hindu vote bank, which still believes in the caste system and is anti-Muslim. Neo-Buddhists don’t vote for him because that small blue strip was very tiny in the MNS flag, which is completely removed now. Hindus did not vote for him because the blue strip was above the saffron. Muslims in general are less territorial but even were unhappy seeing the green color at the bottom. If he chooses NDA, with his new flag, his political plot may change. Still, he is one leader who is equally loved by Muslims. MNS has many Muslim supporters.
Recently, most of the heavyweights of opposition parties have joined Shiv Sena by denying BJP. Therefore, BJP has no obligation to support Sena anymore. Raj Thackeray is a political opponent of Uddhav Thackeray. He is popular among Maharashtrians but also created his space in the hearts of people across India.
His stand is always on the politicians of UP and Bihar to develop their own state and not burden the other states. All should take his point positively. There has been uproar from Delhi, Bangalore, Assam, Gujarat, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu against migrants from UP and Bihar. So why blame Raj Thackeray alone? For that matter even UP people don’t like Biharis. And even Western UP doesn’t like people from Eastern UP. He rightly took up the point that the Railways Recruitment Advertisement was not published in Maharashtra by then railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and the fraud that was done in Railway Recruitment. He brought to the notice of local Maharashtrians how they were deprived of rightful opportunities.
He is not against anyone. But his main concern is protecting the Marathi culture and its people. A language is a part of culture and North Indians have a tendency to impose Hindi language saying it is a Rashtra Bhasha. Whereas, Gujaratis, Marwaris, Sindhis, Punjabis, Kannadigas, Tamilians, Malayalis, Bengalis pick up Marathi language and speak it but people from Uttar Pradesh and Biharis even if they have stayed in Maharashtra for 50 years don’t speak in Marathi. Each state has a distinct identity. Maharashtra has its own identity. Now by imposing too much Hindi the state evades its cultural values.
He rightly took up the cause against hawkers who crouch everyplace. There is no place to walk on Mumbai footpaths and people from UP and Bihar just come and squat, then slowly convert it into a shop, then grabs the land. There has been a pattern for a long time. On a daily basis there are thousands of migrants from UP-Bihar who do this, imagine the encroachment and burden on the city. If the UP-Bihar government had created employment opportunities then the other metropolitan cities would not have been troubled.
He also rightly pointed out the eve-teasing by hawkers. It is not a secret that people from UP and Bihar don’t have much respect for women. Also, these laborers that leave their families in their state and come to Mumbai are inevitable to be psychologically frustrated and gradually they bound to get into crime. Some 20 years back it had come in newspapers that the upmarket societies of South Mumbai had made a policy not to employ any person from Bihar because many of them were engrossed in criminal activities. This had nothing to do with Raj Thackeray. This is the general feeling of most of the citizens of Mumbai and Maharashtra.
He rightly took the cause against movie theatres and looting of the public. His actions were welcome by the public. He rightly spoke against the bullet train because the city needs a basic infrastructure that is not in place. All the citizens of Maharashtra also supported his opinion. He is not against Azan and doesn’t hate Muslims. In fact, he has huge Muslim support within Maharashtra. He is against those loudspeakers and loud noises 5 times a day all 365 days. Which is almost 1800 times a year. Many also support this view but nobody has shown guts to speak it out in the fear of losing vote bank. He also spoke against the bullying nature of Gujaratis. Those communities have a lot of money because they belong to the business and trading sectors. Gujaratis buy land and construct buildings and make them into the only veg and only for Gujarati societies. They don’t sell their flats to others than Gujarati’s, on the other hand, Marathi people are not that biased against Gujarati’s. Only one leader in Maharashtra had guts to mention these issues without bothering about his political fate or vote appeasement because his objectives do not limit to only political gains.
Raj Thackeray should be understood genuinely because he speaks sense. He has his ardent followers who believe his vision although the violent actions might have been unnecessary sometimes. His proactive involvement is all people seek and believe; he is on the leader who is always on the right track even after losing consecutive elections. People still knock at his door for seeking help and they know it very well that he doesn’t have a presence in the government but he can render services. He requires no power to protect his people.
One day, you will see him riding Maharashtra politics, as once Balasaheb used to.