When the Maharashtra Municipal Cooperation poll results came out, one thing has been confirmed for certain. That the state is under the tightening grip of the Hindutwa hardliners.
The battle itself was between the two extreme right wingers, the BJP and the Shiv Sena. The Congress and the NCP that claim to be the secular parties, didn’t pose any threat anywhere for the Hindutwa parties. BJP that won 628 seats out of the total 1268 seats, established supremacy by securing over triple the number of seats it gained in the municipal elections in 2012. Shiv Sena had had a fall out with the BJP when it seized the Chief Minister’s chair after securing majority of seats in the municipal polls. The party had criticized the Centre and the BJP, while remaining in the NDA, and had contested the municipal elections as a single entity; but failed to prove its power. Other than winning a clear majority alone in Thane and outshining the BJP for two votes in the Mumbai municipal corporation elections and emerging as the single largest party, the supporters of Bal Thackeray cannot claim any other gains. At the same time, the fact that both the parties are rooted in the same ideology and that apart from the tussle for power, there is no significant disparities between them as far the hardcore Hindutwa nationalism is concerned, poses grave challenges for the secularist democracy. After Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra is as well, turning into an unshakeable hub of fascism; that too in the wake of Modi government inviting a nationwide fury after his demonetisation move.
Even though the declining strength and limitations of the Congress and Sharad Pawar’s NCP could be deemed as the apparent reasons, not only are the two parties in Maharashtra less committed towards secularism, given that an appeasement approach has been followed towards Hinduism, it would be clearly understood that soft-Hinduism have naturally made way for hardline Hinduism. It’s normal for the Hinduism to have its roots running in Maharashtra that deeply respects Chhatrapati Shivaji, who is revered by the Marathis as a heroic figure for putting up a successful resistance against Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. It was in the Maratha soil that Keshav Baliram Hedgewar laid the foundation of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the 1920s and V D Savarkar established the Hindu Mahasabha. Maharashtra is also the birth place of the Godse brothers who shot Mahatma Gandhi. It is also history that the loyalty of the eminent freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gopal Krishna Gokhale, were more towards a Hindu India rather than a secular India. That Mumbai city which is a melting point of diverse religions and cultures, had remained against this popular stream for a long time, isn’t forgotten. Mumbai once functioned as the main power centre of the Left wing trade unions in India. But the picture changed when Bal Thackeray emerged as the symbol of extreme hatred, anti-South Indian sentiments and above all Marathi nationalism.
As Shiv Sena that grew and flourished with the backing of the Congress leaders, pens a new history of communal hatred and sectarian divides, the secular democratic forces utilized the opportunity not for strongly opposing the party but for compromises and secret liaisons. BJP then, had been strengthening its foothold in Maharashtra by overtly joining hands with Shiv Sena and covertly destabilizing the ground beneath the party. The latest municipal election results indicate that after Bal Thackeray, the backstabbing of the saffron lot is nearing accomplishment. Raj Thackeray’s MNS is reaching its decline as well. The feverish efforts of the Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen to take advantage of the decay of the secular parties could also be seen in the Maharashtra civic poll results. The religious party of Asaduddin Owaisi has secured 28 seats. The minority community that’s stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea, seeing the Majlis as their new saviour in their areas of significant influence, couldn’t be blamed. There is no honest Secular Front to be projected for those who keep uttering that the safety of the minorities lies with the secular parties. That being the fact, how can they mow down the people who call for fighting by standing on their own foot!