The Thackeray cousins, Raj and Uddhav, are vying with each other wooing the perceived Maharashtrian vote. They are fomenting the worst kind of anti-national divisiveness. The political response to them by rival parties is pathetic. The inhibited criticism arises from the fear of arousing a Maharashtrian backlash. This betrays a poor opinion about the maturity of Maharashtrians. It displays ignorance about the fundamental principles of good governance. People respect power. The government's authority is derived from the exercise of legitimate power. When the government fails to exercise its responsibility to uphold law it erodes its authority and invites popular unrest and license. This is what is happening in Mumbai. This is what has been happening in Mumbai for over half a century. It is time to confront the phoney chauvinism unleashed by the Thackeray cousins with a fitting political response. The history of Mumbai needs to be recalled.
In 1661 Charles II of England received Bombay as part of his dowry after marrying Catherine of Braganza. The British East India Company received it from the Crown in 1668. It shortly founded the modern city of Bombay. As a port Bombay flourished in commerce . Skilled workers and traders moved to Bombay owned by the British. The business in Bombay was built up mainly by the Gujarati and Parsi communities, and partially by Bohras, Jews and Marwaris.
After Independence Nehru, Patel and even the RSS under Golwarkar were against the formation of linguistic states. Even though the linguistic states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were conceded, the state of Bombay comprising Maharashtra and Gujarat was retained with Mumbai as the state capital. Morarji Desai was the Chief Minister of united Bombay state. Desai had served as a deputy collector under the British before Independence. He knew the principles of governance. When Marathi speaking politicians formed the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti and started a violent agitation in 1956, Desai countered violence with an iron hand. Hundreds of violent agitators were shot dead near Flora Fountain. But then, with typical half-hearted resolve, Nehru wilted and Desai had to resign. In the aftermath of Nehru's surrender the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti performed well in the polls and YB Chavan replaced Desai as the CM of bilingual Bombay state.
The view that Bombay should be made a city state was ignored. It became the capital of Maharashtra. The time has come to right that wrong. Mumbai is the commercial capital of South Asia. Potentially it is the future commercial capital of all Asia. Like Delhi, it deserves to be a city state. This is what the political opponents of the Thackeray duo should demand. The issue is not North Indians versus Maharashtrians. It is pride in Mumbai and India. To imagine that Maharashtrian pride excludes pride in India would be an insult to a community that had contributed so richly to India's freedom.