An open letter to Uddhav Thackeray

By Rajdeep Sardesai
14 February 2010 14:58 IST

Dear Udhavjee,

At the very outset, my compliments for the manner in which you've literally 'stolen' the headlines from your cousin Raj in the last fortnight. After the Assembly election defeat last October, there were many who had written you off as a weak, namby-pamby politician, who would be better off doing photography. But now, it seems that the 'fire' which burns inside Bal Thackeray is alive in the son too. After years of struggling to establish yourself, you have finally discovered the mantra for success as a Shiv Sena leader: find an 'enemy', threaten and intimidate them, commit the odd violent act, and, eureka!, you are anointed the true heir to the original 'T' company supremo.

Your cousin has chosen to bash faceless taxi drivers and students from North India, soft targets who are totally unprotected. You've been much braver. You've actually chosen to target national icons: Sachin Tendulkar, Mukesh Ambani, Shah Rukh Khan, powerful figures who most Indians venerate. Shah Rukh is no surprise since the Sena has always been uncomfortable with the Indian Muslim identity. Forty years ago, your father had questioned Dilip Kumar's patriotism for accepting an award from the Pakistani government. You've called Shah Rukh a traitor for wishing to choose Pakistani cricketers in the IPL. That your father invited Javed Miandad, the former Pakistani captain and a close relation of Dawood Ibrahim, to your house is a matter of record that we shall not go into today.

I am a little surprised that you chose to question Ambani and Tendulkar though. The Sena has always enjoyed an excellent relationship with corporate India. Why then criticise India's biggest businessman for suggesting that Mumbai belongs to all? After all, no one can deny that Mumbai's entrepreneurial energy has been driven by communities from across India. The diatribe against Sachin is even more strange. He is, alongwith Lata Mangeshkar, Maharashtra's most admired and recognised face. Surely, you will agree that Sachin symbolizes Maharashtrian pride in a manner that renaming shops and streets in Marathi never can.

Of course, in-between some of your local thugs also attacked the IBN Lokmat office. I must confess that initially the attack did leave me outraged. Why would a political outfit that claims to protect Maharashtrian culture attack a leading Marathi news channel? But on reflection I realized that we hadn't been singled out: over the last four decades, the Shiv Sena has targeted some of Maharashtra's finest literary figures and journalistic institutions. That you continue to live in a colony of artists while attacking artistic freedom remains one of the many tragic ironies in the evolution of the Sena.

Just before the Assembly elections, you had told me in an interview that you were determined to shake off the Shiv Sena's legacy of violence. You spoke of the need for welfarist politics, of how you were saddened that rural Maharashtra was being left behind. I was impressed by the farmer rallies you had organized, by the fact that you had documented farmer suicides in the state. I thought that Uddhav Thackeray was serious about effecting a change in Maharashtra's political landscape.

I was obviously mistaken. Farmer suicides still continue, the after-effects of drought are still being faced in several districts, but the focus is now squarely on finding high profile hate figures. You claim to have a vision for Mumbai. Yet, on the day the Sena-controlled city's municipal corporation's annual budget revealed an alarming financial crisis, your party mouthpiece, Saamna, was running banner headlines seeking an apology from Shah Rukh Khan. You asked your Shiv Sainiks to agitate against Rahul Gandhi's visit to Mumbai, but why have you not asked them to wage a war against the water cuts that have made life so difficult for millions in the city?

At one level, I can understand the reasons for your frustration. The Congress-NCP government in the state has been thoroughly incompetent: the last decade has seen Maharashtra decline on most social and economic parameters. Yet, the Shiv Sena has been unable to capture power in the state. Your war with cousin Raj has proved to be self-destructive. The Assembly election results showed that a united Sena may have offered a real challenge to the ruling alliance. In fact, the Sena and the MNS together garnered around 43 per cent of the popular vote in Mumbai-Thane, almost seven per cent more than what was obtained by the Congress-NCP combine. Yet, because your vote was split, you won just nine of the 60 seats in the region, a result which proved decisive in the overall state tally.

Your defeat seems to have convinced you that the only way forward is to outdo your cousin in parochial politics. It's a strategy which has undoubtedly made you a headline-grabber once again. Unfortunately, television rating points don't get you votes or goodwill. There is space in Maharashtra's politics for a regional force, but it needs to be based on a constructive, inclusive identity.

Tragically, the Shiv Sena has never offered a serious social or economic agenda for the future. Setting up the odd wada pav stall in Mumbai is hardly a recipe for addressing the job crisis . Why hasn't the Sena, for example, started training projects to make Maharashtrian youth face upto the challenges of a competitive job market? Why doesn't the Sena give regional culture a boost by supporting Marathi theatre, literature or cinema? The wonderful Marathi film, "Harishchandrachee Factory", nominated for the Oscars, has been co-produced by Ronnie Screwvala, a Parsi, who like millions of other 'outsiders' has made Mumbai his home. Maybe, I ask for too much. Tigers, used to bullying others for years, will never change their stripes.

Post-script: Your charming son, Aditya, who is studying English Literature in St Xaviers College, had sent me a collection of his poems. I was most impressed with his writing skills. Let's hope the next generation of the T company will finally realize that there is more to life than rabble-rousing!

Jai Hind, Jai Maharashtra!

Blogger's Profile

Rajdeep Sardesai

One of India’s most respected journalists, Rajdeep Sardesai, has nearly three decades of journalistic experience in print and tv. He has been the founder- editor of chief of IBN 18 network, which included CNN IBN. Prior to setting up the IBN network, he was the managing editor of NDTV 24 x 7 and NDTV India. Rajdeep has won more than 100 national and international awards for journalism, including the Padma Shri in 2008. He is currently consulting editor at the India Today group.

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Previous Comments

I just went through few resposes below and shocked to know the general feeling.

Mr. Rajdeep, at the outset let me congratulate you on this guts of yours. It indeed is a pathetic sitiuation where the entire state is kept hostage by this so called "marathi manoos" (not the real ones, but the self declared ones). It is more distrubing that some common men an women sympathize with this politics.

Whether or not Rajdeep writes to Sonia or any other politician, he has atleast dared to write to a powerful man (in his street), of his shortcomings. It is no question of politics or parties. It is the question of India, the country we live in, the country we love and country which is fast growing and the country which requires a change of air (Fundamental, communal and political air).

Thanx Rajdeep

- Saleemulla Khan, Manipal | 05 th March 2010 17:38

 

Dear Rajdeep,

It seems that it is really unfortunate in this country that any party who is soft to Hindus is always targeted.

Just like the letter which you have written to Uddhav Thackarey, requesting you to write the letter to Sonia Gandhi, on the issue of Sikh massacre happened in Delhi and more then 2500 sikhs were killed and the Congress Govt. Was in power at that time.

Most importantly Mr. Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar are the main accused in the said killings and both are the prominent faces of the Congress party in Delhi.

Mr. Rahul Gandhi is talking about lot of things like North Indians / South Indians, but requesting you to request him and his mother on behalf of all Indians to deliver justice to Sikh community at least now after so many years and send both the big fishes to Jail.

Secondly, request both of them to confirm the Conviction of Afzal Guru, (this they will not do because of a Vote bank politics, but it is rally sad in this country that this act is not called as communal)

- Puruhottam Sandye, Ponda Goa | 19 th February 2010 16:13

 

Mr. Rajdeep Sardesai, you have very good writing skills. I wish you write an open letter to the corrupt politicians who have mastered the art of manipulating the democracy, looted public exchequer and have brought our Country to the present state of Collapse!

- Vishwas Prabhudesai, Loliem | 19 th February 2010 09:11

 

Generating violence by giving hate speeches should be punished heavily, speedily and impartially. Everybody knows how the Congress Govt in Maharashtra had an unreasonably soft corner for Raj when in violent clashes, poor taxi drivers became the target. Destroying public property has to be punished severely and the cost of the damage recovered from the Party concerned!

- Vishwas Prabhudesai, Loliem | 18 th February 2010 14:44

 

Thakareys are a bunch of confused and self-contradicting comedians.

# Bal Thakrey is mimicked as Hindu-hridhay-Samrat (king of Hindu hearts). But what does he do? Attack his own North and South Indian Hindu brothers and sisters.

# He is targeting Aussies because Indians are being targeted down under. But right under his nose his and MNS goondas are attacking North Indians.

Bal Thakrey, Udhhav Thakrey and Raj Thakrey should all be sent to Jail, the place where they belong to.

- Jagan, Mapusa | 18 th February 2010 00:38

 

I think Uddhav is confused. He wants to bring Welfarist politics, but his cousin is not allowing him to do so. Farmer rallies were very impressive. But after the rallies, Uddhav was back in Mumbai and no one at rural level from SS bothered to take forward the mission of Uddhav. Gat Pramukh and Vibhag Pramukg were busy impressing Uddhav and Milind Narvekar for their own benefits. These suffering farmers were made only a part of these huge rallies to make those rallies successful. After the (succesful) rallies, farmers were ignored.

Does Uddhav knows "Saat Bara kora zala ki Nahi"?

- Milind Paidarkar, Mumbai | 17 th February 2010 10:26

 

One thing I have forgotten to write is that along with SRK made money, Shiv Sena took a political mileage, CM has performed terribly on the issue (this is as per the tradition of congress led govt. ” all the channels have tried to improve TRP and CNN – IBN was a front runner in all of them (both English, Hindi and Marathi media)”

- purushottam, ponda | 16 th February 2010 10:12

 

At the out set I will clear my self that I personally does not have any relation with Shiv Sena or any of there leaders.

But after watching the fiascos on TV for almost a month, I was hurt terribly, because I trust English media. In that, I trust Network 18 (except Marathi News channel IBN LOKMAT, reason best known to Mr. Nikhil Wagle, who has no manners to speak).

Coming back to main issue, I really was not understood what was there in the film MNIK, as CM of Maharashtra was very closely monitoring the situation and understand that more then 30 thousand cops were deployed to protect one film. The result is in front of all – Pune Blast and 9 lost their livee and so many are injured.

If MNIK was not released, I don’t think anybody would have lost there life.

And very importantly, why SRK and not taken Pakistani players if he really had a spot. Also fine if he had also not taken Pak players. For God sake, he should have not commented on it.

He is staying in Mumbai for quite a long now and he knows what happens if any comment is passed on Pak. In Mumbai,(this is a general knowledge) and being a responsible citizen (so Called), he should have not commented on Pak players.

The outcome of the stores is in front of every body. Full Cop force was mobilised to Mumbai and terror struck in Pune. This happened because of one statement.

The Statement was right or wrong is a different story altogether. But outcome of that was SRK made money, Shiv Sena took a political mileage, CM has performed terribly on the issue (this is as per the tradition of

Congress, their CMs never perform, except Sheila Dixit) and 9 people have lost lives and also entire country has gone in defensive mode.

Everything is because of One Statement.



- Purushottam Sandye, Ponda- Goa | 15 th February 2010 16:58

 

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