Hot air balloons: While BJP and Shiv Sena get busy sniping at each other, people's concerns ignored

They have taken care not to land a knock-out punch; and although the rift between Shiv Sena and BJP seems to be irreversible for now, what is worrying is their indifference to people’s concerns

Hot air balloons: While BJP and Shiv Sena get busy sniping at each other, people's concerns ignored

Rahi Bhide

The Shiv Sena and the BJP, more specifically Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis, have been busy snapping and snarling at each other for the past few weeks. But significantly, allegations they levelled were abstract, philosophical, and totally unsubstantiated. Talk of hot air balloons.

Former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya alleged that Rashmi Thackeray, the wife of the chief minister, had amassed a lot of wealth and owned a dozen bungalows in Alibaug. Now, if correct, this would have truly destroyed the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra. But while Uddhav Thackeray was not expected to react and ignored the salvo, BJP workers were also flummoxed when Fadnavis did not make even a passing reference at a rally of ‘North Indians’ in Mumbai.

People now suspect there is a friendly bout between Thackeray and Fadnavis. As CM, Thackeray has access to all information and documents regarding corruption by various ministers in the previous government. If exposed it would embarrass Fadnavis but also Uddhav Thackeray, for the Sena had been an equal partner in the Fadnavis government.

Fadnavis in fact talks only of the intangibles – how Bal Thackeray would never have supported an alliance with the Congress or, ironically how Uddhav Thackeray is following in his father’s footsteps for Balasaheb had supported Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. Both leaders are engaging in raising a lot of sound and fury but have avoided raising substantive issues and allegations of corruption.

While political observers are convinced that the rift between the Shiv Sena and the BJP is now permanent, they also sense a subtle shift in Shiv Sena’s challenge to the BJP on the issue of Hindutva. Thackeray recently asserted that Hindutva was a concept given to the nation by his father Bal Thackeray -- and he is not wrong. At the time Thackeray’s rhetoric against Muslims had been too shrill even for the BJP led by people like A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani but Balasaheb had sensed ahead of everybody else the general ire against the appeasement of minorities.

Now his son seems to have sensed the pushback happening against BJP’s violent Hindutva by sections of even BJP supporters and Uddhav Thackeray is taunting the BJP for its indulgence to violence, bloodshed, Constitutional violations etc. to embarrass his former ally.

The mutual dislike shared by Shiv Sena and RSS leaders were not quite a secret even when Bal Thackeray was at the helm of the Sena. But the gloves are now finally off and Uddhav Thackeray has gone in for the RSS’s jugular. At his Maharashtra Day rally on May 1, some interesting descriptions of the RSS made a grand debut. Uddhav, for the first time, described the RSS as venomous, vicious, psychopathic and ruthless and accused it of leading the country towards disaster.

“Perverted and mentally sick people wearing black caps with no brain below them with more hair than wit,” was how he described RSS members. They never fought for freedom and likewise never fought for a Samyukta Maharashtra and we do not have to learn patriotism or Hinduism from them,” he declared.

Wasn’t his grandfather a freedom fighter, didn’t his father and grandfather fight for Maharashtra and wasn’t Balasaheb the solitary leader to be disenfranchised for propagating Hindutva?

Some of the barbs have been rude – like body shaming Fadnavis. But then Fadnavis himself has not been averse to using rude and vulgar innuendos against the MVA government. While the slanging match has provided ample entertainment, are the principal warriors a tad indifferent to the genuine concerns of the people? Few of these leaders seem to be talking on them.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

Hot air balloons: While BJP and Shiv Sena get busy sniping at each other, people's concerns ignored

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