By Sushil Kutty
May 4, Wednesday 5 am, the loudspeakers started blaring. One began, and the other followed. The first one with the ‘azaan’, the second one with the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’. It was Raj Thackeray going ahead with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ challenge to the Maha Vikas Aghadi government on its refusal to do a Yogi Adityanath in Maharashtra, i.e., mute or remove loudspeakers perched on the minarets of mosques across Maharashtra.
The focus is on the loudspeaker. And on Raj Thackeray, who has asked “Hindus” across Maharashtra to challenge the “azaan” with the “Hanuman Chalisa” as it was “now or never!” The police are on their feet across the state, saying there’s mischief afoot. And stating that those breaking the peace would face the full might of the law. Arrests were being made from Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Pimpri-Chinchwad, etc.
This, even as Navneet Rana and Ravi Rana were granted bail in the sedition cases lodged against them for threatening to chant the Hanuman Chalisa outside Matoshree, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s Mumbai residence. The police were also massed outside Raj Thackeray’s residence. This is the first time in two decades that the Thackeray cousins are back in the news together.
The fact of the matter is, the ‘Cousins Thackeray’ will never be at peace with each other. Their rivalry may take on political overtones, but deep down it is personal. One of the two will have to publically accept the hegemony of the other for peace to prevail between them, which is not going to happen in an aeon’s time. Their differences go back to their adolescence. Some may draw equivalences in Mahabharata; others will try to draw parallels in ‘Dynasty’, but neither tells it right.
The fact is, this is a story about two boys who grew up to adulthood, with chips on their shoulders. Also, most fathers are like Dhritrashtra. And Raj Thackeray was only a nephew! Today, the Bharatiya Janata Party has descended on the estranged duo to exploit that fault line. Prime Minister Narendra Modi never tires of haranguing political dynasties, but here’s the BJP fanning dynastic fires for political chicanery.
Rejected by Balasaheb Thackeray, Raj Thackeray went solo in 2006 and launched the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, winning seats in the Maharashtra Assembly, and in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. But, somewhere down the line, Raj Thackeray slacked and the MNS floundered. Party MLAs jumped ship and joined Shiv Sena. Talk swirled that Raj Thackeray slept late, and woke up late.
Raj Thackeray’s flip-flops also gained notice. The MNS’s UP-Bihar bhaiya–baiting didn’t help matters. Also, the ‘Marathi Manoos’ tag was slipping. Raj Thackeray tipped pro- and anti-Modi. He stood firm with Sharad Pawar, even graced Uddhav Thackeray’s coronation. All those were chimera on the block. Now, he is needling Uddhav, and badmouthing Sharad Pawar.
The MNS’s Thackeray is contributing his mite to dismantling the Maha Vikas Aghadi. Raj Thackeray is unofficially part of the BJP’s “Let’s Teach Uddhav Thackeray Hindutva” campaign. It’s more than apparent that Uddhav and Raj will not bury the hatchet even if one or both of them will, if needed, cast aside the Hindutva bow and arrow.
The battle lines are drawn. The BJP and the MNS against the MVA, though the MNS and the BJP insist they wouldn’t tie the knot. The BJP is not fooling anybody. The BJP’s game-plan is crystal. It wants to foist one Thackeray against the other Thackeray. And here they have the advantage of an already broken pair of Thackerays.
The only problem is Uddhav Thackeray isn’t the minnow the BJP-MNS thought him to be. The Shiv Sena chief isn’t folding under attack. The BJP wants to replace the MVA’s ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ with the BJP-MNS’s ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat. The loudspeaker clubbed with Azaan-Hanuman Chalisa was meant to catapult Raj Thackeray to Hindu Hriday Samrat prominence, which was once the mantle of the uncle who chose son over nephew, poetic justice!
Raj Thackeray also played the Yogi Adityanath card in the Maharashtra high stakes game of dice. He extolled the Yogi for muting and removing loudspeakers without a single protest across Uttar Pradesh. It was the script approved to turn the Hindutva tables on Uddhav Thackeray, with advantage Raj Thackeray. At his Aurangabad rally, Raj Thackeray spent precious minutes throwing barbs at Sharad Pawar, labelling the NCP head ‘atheist’ and other Hindutva cuss words.
Talk is rife that chances of holding the Maharashtra assembly elections by the end of 2022 could be a reality, especially after repeated attempts to break up the MVA failed. Surprisingly, Uddhav Thackeray is not the reluctant Chief Minister he was thought he would be. Uddhav has said the Shiv Sena would never give up ‘Hindutva’ and that he was the “shrewd” son of a “gullible” father, and that the BJP can stop “playing games.”
As for peace between the ‘Cousins Thackeray’, Uddhav and Raj got their surname ‘Thackeray’ courtesy their grandfather Keshav Panvelkar who took the ‘Thackeray’ surname from India-born British writer William ‘Makepeace’ Thackeray whom he admired. But ‘making peace’ is the last thing in Uddhav Thackeray and Raj Thackeray’s minds. (IPA Service)