Bangalore, Aug 1: The Telangana episode has given the sub-nationalist forces of Maharashtra a golden opportunity to reclaim prominence. For once the new state was given the nod in southern India and demands for more states began to intensify across the country, there is no way the Shiv Sena or the Mahasrahtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) could keep themselves away from participation in a mouth-watering debate.
Hence, they chose writer Shobhaa De and Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to assert their positions on regional sentiments. After taking on De, who had tweeted that 'Mumbai has always fancied itself as an independent entity'. The MNS launched personal attacks against De while Shiv Sena sought to drag the writer to the arena of law.
Meanwhile, the Raj Thackeray-led MNS threatened to disrupt the release of Chennai Express, a movie featuring Deepika Padukone besides the Bollywood superstar. It has been reported that the movie has sought prime slots in single cinemas across Maharashtra at the expense of some Marathi movies that are currently being screened and this has left the MNS upset.
The film wing of the MNS has warned that if producers of the Khan movie tried to take the slot of any of the Marathi movies, it will be dealt with strictly. The MNS particularly mentioned about Duniyadari, a Marathi movie running successfully since July 19 in single-screen movie halls in suburbs.
It is a easy strategy to target public figures to get instant publicity and draw all attention even for sometime and it works wonders for those who do not have concern for real issues. If De's tweet was indeed so offensive, then why do the Senas allow separate cricket teams for Mumbai and Maharashtra? Let there be one team only if it hurts so much.
It is strange that the current leaders of the two Senas are kin of a man who loved calling himself a 'political cartoonist' and yet they don't understand satires expressed by somebody else. The easier way out for the two sub-nationalist forces is to attack and abuse to complicate any given situation.
The MNS confronted the civic authorities in Mumbai in the wake of road accidents caused by innumerable potholes in the city roads and even held some employees hostage, but the occasion was more 'hijacked' by visiting US Vice President Joe Biden than the plight of the common men. Is the MNS pursuing the issue for a long-term benefit of the commoners? If it is, then why suddenly chase celebrities in the middle of a noble mission?
One gets the feeling that the name Chennai Express gave an opportunity to the MNS to assert its sub-national sentiments and that it features Shah Rukh Khan was a bonus. It also reveals the contempt that the sub-regional forces have for anything north Indian, be it a language or migrant labours.
A few years ago, the MNS targetted foreign actresses working in Bollywood movies, accusing them of 'stealing' local women's jobs. Experts said it was a ploy to secure women votes in Mumbai.
How long will India tolerate cheap hate campaigns as an electioneering strategy?