The reality of Mumbai is finally beginning to surface. Union Minister Praful Patel is the latest leader to come out of the closet and endorse the sentiments of Raj Thackeray. He joins Sharad Pawar, Narain Rane, Chhagan Bhujbal and the rest. Mumbai is the richest city in India. By keeping Mumbai in Maharashtra the purse strings and financial leverage remain with the politicians of the state. Nothing wrong with that if the politicians had the sense and decency to retain the cosmopolitan character of India's financial capital and one of Asia's leading global cities. It is clear by now that bedazzled by electoral politics these leaders are incapable of doing that. In the pursuit of vote bank politics they are endangering the unity of the nation. What is the practical remedy?
As this scribe pointed out through these columns as early as February 11 this year, Mumbai should never have been a part of Maharashtra. In 1956 it was incorporated in the state by the weak-kneed policy of the Congress government under Pandit Nehru. The origins and growth of Bombay were traced to show that its development and culture from inception had been cosmopolitan. The British, the Parsis, Gujaratis, Jews, Marwaris and others had contributed more than the Maharashtrians themselves in developing the wealth and character of the city. The States Reorganization Commission had retained Bombay as the capital of the undivided Maharashtra and Gujarat state. In present day Mumbai the Maharashtrian population is around 35 per cent.
There is therefore only one solution to defuse the Mumbai crisis. Mumbai should be made into a city state as had been demanded by rational voices after Maharashtra was separated from Gujarat. Mumbai will always be dominated by Maharshtrian culture. But it should not be choked by vote bank politics.
At this stage there is only one effective way of achieving that. The majority of voters in Mumbai who are non-Maharashtrian should make an electoral front and deny all existing parties success in the city in the next polls. All the leaders of all the parties in the rest of India who criticize Raj Thackeray must partially sink their differences to unite at least to support the formation of such a front to contest polls in Mumbai. Many Marathi speaking voters might also support this front. That is the only democratic and fitting response to the Mumbai chauvinists. Will the leaders genuinely opposed to Raj Thackeray's politics do that? If they cannot, they may as well shut up.