Posts Tagged ‘Bal Thackeray’

BJP dumps Shiv Sena. As expected?

September 25, 2014

The 25 year old alliance between the BJP and Shiv Sena is finally over. Of course it was actually an alliance between Bal Thackeray and the BJP and without him the Shiv Sena is just a shadow of what it once was (and some might say that it was always a blight on Indian politics with Bal Thackeray – and being a shadow of a blight without him was a welcome shift to the light!). But the simple reality is that the BJP – at national level – does not need the Shiv Sena. In fact they are a liability.

ToIThe 25-year-old BJP-Shiv Sena alliance split on Thursday amid continued deadlock over seat-sharing for the October 15 Maharashtra assembly polls.

After several rounds of talks over the last few days, senior state BJP leaders announced on Thursday evening severing of the ties between the two parties, blaming Shiv Sena’s “inflexibility” for it.

“We have conveyed our decision to snap ties to Shiv Sena. The decision was taken with a heavy heart,” Maharashtra BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis told reporters after a meeting of the state party’s core committee.

While this split is just for the Maharashtra elections, it is effectively a national split since the Shiv Sena is a zero without or outside of Maharashtra.

After the Modi wave at the general elections it was only a matter of time. Back in July I speculated

The biggest credibility challenge that Narendra Modi faces is to convince Indians – and the outside world – that he represents something much larger, secular and inclusive than the narrow, religiously-bigoted  and exclusive position espoused by the RSS and some even more extreme Hindu nationalist groups. But he has to do this equitably but without giving the perception of appeasing the Muslim fanatics.

And he has to clean his own house first. His ally in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena, is now an embarrassment and a liability. Within his own party also there is no dearth of intellectually retarded loud-mouths. They are all now a burden and unless he cuts them down to size they have the potential to negate all his efforts to be  inclusive.

The Shiv Sena is a special case and I think Modi can afford to dump them. They have just made utter fools of themselves  ……..

……. The Shiv Sena remains a force – if only in Maharashtra – but they are in a declining spiral and my reading is that it would be least damaging for Modi to dump them now – early on in his term – and cap his losses.


Language and Bombay and Madras and Calcutta

August 17, 2014

During the period when Suresh Prabhu and Anant Geete were Ministers of Power in India I used to have to follow up any discussions with them about power projects with visits to the head of their party, Bal Thackeray, in Bombay. (They were in their posts as representatives of the Shiv Sena Party in the then BJP led coalition but had little freedom to act on their own. The Shiv Sena was embodied in Bal Thackeray and he always had the final word). Bal Thackeray and the Shiv Sena had led the very vocal, sometimes violent and parochially nationalist movement to change the name of “Bombay” to “Mumbai” in 1995. I have found all these “nationalist” movements – whether in Bombay or Madras or Calcutta or Delhi or Bangalore – to be small-minded, rooted in insecurity and representing a deeply-felt  – but real – inferiority.

On my first meeting with Bala-saheb I was given strict protocol instructions by one of his aides before being ushered into the sanctum sanctorum at Mathoshree. I was to make sure that I always referred to “Mumbai” and not to “Bombay”. At the end of the audience I was expected to end my taking leave of him with the words “Jai Maharashtra” (long live Maharashtra). I remember asking the aide then whether, if I said “Bombay”, he would not understand what I meant. As he spluttered and I entered, I remember telling him that while I had no desire to insult anybody, I used language and words and names to best communicate my meaning.

In the event, in about 6 or 7 meetings over a number of years with Bal Thackeray, I never once used the terms “Mumbai” or “Jai Maharashtra“. But I did not go out of my way to use “Bombay” excessively or to provoke. I do not recall that Bala-saheb was ever discomfited or upset at my use of language (or non-use of “Mumbai”), or that we had any difficulty in getting our messages across to each other.

I grew up with “Bombay” and it evokes for me a world of glamour and wealth but also of modernity and substance and rectitude. As a child we lived in Poona (not Pune) and travelled through Bombay regularly. Bombay was avant-garde. “Mumbai” for me conjures up an old dirty village. A picture of slums and unfinished construction and uncollected garbage and rotting mill buildings. All very subjective of course but names and language are about communicating meanings. I note that the international airport designation of Bombay remains “BOM”. Since it takes an Act of Parliament to change it, the “High Court of Bombay” remains the “High Court of Bombay” in Mumbai. The Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company Limited (B.E.S. & T Co.Ltd) remains BEST but the “B” now stands for “Brihanmumbai” (meaning Greater Bombay). The name of the main railway station Victoria Terminus (VT) was changed to Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus but it is still referred to by everybody as VT. “Bollywood” remains “Bollywood” and I see no moves to make that “Mullywood”. Bombay Gin would not taste the same as Mumbai Gin. Bombay duck is far superior to Mumbai duck. In the 2000’s I used to stay at a guest house on Malabar Hill. Taxi drivers know exactly what I mean when I refer to Flora Fountain or Cuffe Parade or Kemp’s Corner or Napean Sea Road. The magic of Marine Drive on a misty evening is still untouched. Bombay, Meri Jaan is still the original song with Dev Anand in the movie CID.

The politically correct name is “Mumbai” and foreigners – especially – are very concerned about being politically correct. When I use “Bombay” I have no fear of being misunderstood. And even ardent Marathi nationalists understand exactly what I mean when I say “Bombay”, and the cleverer ones (there are not many of them) may even understand that I don’t think much of their rabid parochialism.

I finished my schooling in Calcutta and my image of the city has to mirror that reality. I am not misunderstood today when I still refer to Calcutta rather than Kolkata. The Calcutta High Court is still going strong. The international airport code is still CCU. Back in 1963 the British Council Library on Theatre Road was one of my favourite haunts. The name of the road was changed to Shakespeare Sarani but when I was there earlier this year – 50 years on –  taxi drivers still referred to Theatre Road (and did not even know that there was any other name). School was on Park Street and Park Circus is just as congested as it always was. Lansdowne Road  and many others have been renamed, but the old names live on. Bangalore remains Bangalore for me and Bengaluru does not trip off my tongue very easily – if at all. In Delhi CP is the supposedly defunct Connaught Place but it is still CP and not Rajiv Gandhi Chowk. Madras airport remains MAA and the Madras High Court is now located in Chennai. Mount Road is still Mount Road and everybody knows where Parry’s corner is.

I am told that Mumbai and Chennai and Kolkata and Bengaluru are the only “correct” forms but that is just a rather empty political statement. There are no rights or wrongs with language. There are only successful communications or misunderstood ones. There is no correctness about grammar – only compliance with a prevailing usage. My point is that as with grammar so with names. Inventing words or rules of grammar – or names – is of little account if the invented terms are not used.

Maybe the old names will be forgotten in a generation or two – or maybe not. The reality of usage always trumps the desires of  “political correctness”.

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