Call it megalomania or call it plain coincidences or call it influence of reading Midnights children, seems like my life is intertwined with the happenings in India. On Dec 6th 1992, when Babri masjid was demolished I was camped at the most non religious place: NCC camp in Kalaikunda in my first year of IIT when NCC was compulsory. The nation was burning outside but we were far from humanity unscathed from any such unrest. On 29th Sep 1993 when earth shook at Killari, i had to take refuge of co-hostel mate as my room keys were lost and we were unable to break the lock. When rumour spread that all Ganesha idols were drinking milk, i missed a mid sem paper due to wrong copying of exam calendar. I was on my honeymoon in Himalayas when IC814 was hijacked from Himalayas and Rupen Katyal another honeymooner lost his life. During 2002 Gujarat riots i was in Gujarati dominated city of Leicester in UK. Now UK has started talking to Modi in 2012. When kasab and co shook Mumbai in 08, i had a marriage to attend in Mumbai which i did. Bit deviating from main topic of my discussion.When Balasaheb died I was in a city of Hyderabad that too amidst some riots near charminar and passing through Muslim dominated areas of the old city. What a paradox for someone like me who was fan of this leader.
After returning to desk, i was reading all and sundry commenting on legacy, fallacies of this great leader. Earlier in this blog i had mentioned that we are fast losing on politicians who have mass love and following. I think Balasaheb was the last. Raj Thakaray has potential. Only time will tell whether this potential can be converted into coherant and decisive politics apart from cutting into opposition votes. On NCP side, supremo has lost lot of ground due to some inexplicable politics, the new generation and second fiddle is nowhere near. On congress side Baba brigade looks too disconnected from masses. Regional leaders like Maya, Jaya, Mamata, have limited appeal. Atalji was last BJP leader loved by masses and he is no more active. Advani has been made irrelevant thanks to current leadership. That leaves only Narendra Modi who has lot of handicaps.
There is no doubt in my mind that Balasaheb was and will be the last active leader for whom 20 lakh people will turn out to participate in the funeral. There are some in media who blame it to terror and fear which resulted in the turn out. That is bull shit. Knowing Mumbai first hand and people’s sentiment, all those armchair critics are wrong. These are not paid congress rallies. People love Balasaheb.
Same people are crying that his politics was divisive, irrational and dangerous. I disagree.
He stopped Mumbai to turn into dead Kolkata when mills were getting closed due to red brigade. He helped both owners and workers to survive. Some may point out that he got middle mans’ benefit but at least he had guts to own it rather than slimy old Mumbai/Maharashtra politicians who earned clandestinely.
Moreover social organization he created with shakha pramukh as family head of neighbourhood is something unique and point to study for all you armchair politicians. Though some may see this phenomenon as a way to legitimize local goons, but if it works so be it.
He made underworld scared. Extortion was rampant in late 80s till mid 90s. He created terror amidst gangsters by using discretionary encounters by police to control menace. Though not 100% eliminated, these days Mumbai is much safer. I have read bullshit books like Maximum city who cry foul against this. He will always have detractors. He is no man of middle road, either you love him or hate him.
He took on casteist Marathi politics head on by appointing Brahmin CM which no one would dream. The so called inclusive leaders have divided society to such an extent that Marathi public life, art, history, culture, drama has every following drawn based on caste. By symbolism he made it clear that he does not believe in caste. He took sena to hinterlands of western Maharashtra, marathwada, konkan and vidarbha as could generate support amidst not so affluent people from ‘political’ community. He united Maharashtra by not recognizing castes. He had supporters in Dalit movement as well.
Balasaheb wanted Marathi kids to have confidence, our generation did. Many term this as pariochal politics but it worked well for Marathi people. We conquered west and do good in IT/real estate/media opportunities in Pune, Mumbai , Bengaluru, Chennai( no one complains name changes for these cities as they complain Mumbai to have changed from their beloved Bombay ). We no more have inferiority complex but we do have superiority complex thanks to Balasaheb. We respect our gods like Shivaji. We are not ashamed of Peshwai as ’sponsored’ historians want us to. We love PL , GA, Vinda, Kusumagraj, Balgandharv, Mangeskars, Phalkes, tendulkars, gavaskars, bhimsen joshis, Can any other community boast of such talent except those from Bengal , We love all our saints across caste line. We love Marathi films, drama, music. Gone are those days when we were ridiculed for being Ghaatis in our hostel.
He played critical role post Dec 6th. And that’s where most of liberal, outgoing, liberal oriented, neo modernist, society has problems to associate with Balasaheb politics. Shivsena was never anti muslim but opposes anti national elements. There are many Muslim shivsainiks. Shivsena retaliated every step of jihadist who sponsored riots to create chaos in Mumbai. Man on street was scared and he needed some solace and support. I am writing this as i had experienced firsthand. Many would agree with me but its not politically correct to accept it publically. Please note that no country wants to have nuclear weapons for using it and nuclear weapons act as strategic deterrent in modern times (I don’t know about Pakistan and other countries blinded by religion) and no sane non criminal human wants to kill fellow human being unless its a war situation . But someone has to act strong in self defence to act as deterrent. Of course mass frenzy was unavoidable and some violence unjustified. But someone had to fill in vacuum created for lack of safety for common man. Ideally Maharashtra govt should have but failed miserable. And proof is that those enemies sitting in Karachi and Islamabad had to use bombs placed cowardly in public places to proclaim their vengeance. It showed the way to proclaim their impotence extending to 9/11, 26/11, 11/7 to use dastardly techniques to kill real men and women. I had read statistically, period from independence till 92, had more riots than the period following it. Indian moved on from Riots (though we ended as victims of terrorism later, and Gujarat02 and current UP situations are exception)
Balasaheb was a loved politician which is extinct in todays Indian Politics. Though armchair thought leaders would have their opinions, but for me he was a father figure in close family.author runs a blog http://nayakgiri.blogspot.com