A middle class muse on Bal Thackeray

I know Aditya Datey (who blogs at Ghaat Spaat)  from our days of proxies, lab assignments and typical college fun. He came off as a positive, confident guy, very clear about his views and opinions - no two ways about it, just as he is today. Which is why, even though I have stayed away from politics on my blog, I have no qualms about hosting his post as the first guest post on my blog. 

A lot has been said about Bal Thackeray depending on whose side you’re on. This post does not look to favour or disapprove of Bala Saheb in any way. Triggered by his demise, it is in essence, a common man’s musing on having grown up in the midst of Indian politics, bureaucracy and the big religion divide and what it means to him today. So without any further ado, here it is. 


I am very late to all the opinion floatsam on Bal Thackeray, but the ocean is big and palghar cops have by now discovered that the internet has much more interesting stuff to offer.

So here are some points I ponder.

Godwin’s Law states ‘As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving hitler approaches one.’ Bal Thackeray didn’t spend all his waking hours making 
comments on Hitler. But he did make comments professing his love for hitler's oratory, organization skills, artistry and about how india needs a benevolent dictator. Most have heard similar statements by at least one of our friends or family. But Thackeray is who's under discussion and uncle drinks anyway. So it dosent matter that politically, India has always been driven by personality cults pre and post independence. It dosen't matter that Thackeray's influence never extended beyond Mumbai. We can still ring the fascist alarm bells and let reductio ad hitlerum begin.

Do you remember reading The Godfather? What was your dominant feeling after? Awe and respect for the godfather or disgust at the mafias crimes? Compare that to your feelings about Thackeray. Vito Corleone is a much better analogy to Bal Thackeray.

Were you in Mumbai in 1993? If you are reading this, you were either in a muslim stronghold or a hindu stronghold or are incredibly lucky. Who started the riot is a chicken and egg question. Who attacked or protected your neighbourhood is not. If you haven’t seen a truck full of sword bearing men trying to make inroads into your locality and get beaten back by acid bulbs and tubelights, you don’t know what I’m talking about. Yes, it was all terrible and wrong. But who watched your back?

Shiv Sena started out as a Congress pawn in the 60s. A hired gun that the Congress used to break the communist party's hold on the trade unions. Some pawns survive to reach the last square and become queens. Unlike chess, they also change colors. Like a Congress backed Bhindranwale who later changed colours. Like the US fed Taliban that turned against their former allies.

It must be an exaggeration if someone says there are regional and caste based blocs influencing all government job appointments. Meritocracy is right. Parochialism is wrong. Two wrongs don't make a right. Or so I believe until I'm wronged. Or righted.

The bandh didn’t really matter to me. Neither do the elections. They have never. I am not the slumdweller whose home stands or gets bulldozed if this corporator wins or that. I am not the impoverished immigrant escaping the lawlessness of his hometown. I am not a daily wage worker.

My problems are of the urban rich. My activism is air conditioned. My indignance is well fed. My empathy is an ego massage. And my vote really just dilutes the votes of people whose lives depend on an election outcome.

Oo look..India won the test match....

I would love to hear your views!


  1. congress has done that a lot in different states in Punjab they brought a leader and hence all the terrorism started ...

    I am fearing that soon I will need a special VISA to enter mumbai if things keep going ..

    My question is if maharashtra is only for marathis then shudn't all marathis be called back to their parent state and leave all other states...


    1. Valid point. Who's going to get that across :D It's despicable that, even after more than half a century years of independence later, the age old concept of divide and rule still continues to haunt us!

    2. Bikramjit,

      You have a point, but thackerays agenda in mumbai has been repeated by almost every politician in india at some level.

      Parochialism and xenophobia is something that stays politely suppressed in civil society but stays in peoples minds and emerges in private. This also translates to votes being cast in favour of such agendas. All regional politicians know this and make effective use of it. National level politicians support or condemn such policies depending on how the political winds are blowing. Politicians also cut the population pie in various ways depending on what suits their reelection. So for eg: a hindu thakur from UP will find himself the beneficiary of some one political agenda and at a loss from another and benefiting a third one!

      In situations that benefit them, citizens call it empowerment and those that dont they cry foul.

      But for most from the urban middle class, we dont take to the streets in protest not because we are better cultured, but because most issues dont affect our lives enough.

  2. Very well written specially the last few lines. I never lived in Bombay but has seen the terrorism developing in Punjab so I feel any kind of extremism is bad. And that for me is not a neutral ground. There are many Indias within India and that is the fodder for extremists.

    1. Jas, the last few lines were my favourite too! They are what prompted me to publish this as a guest post on my blog! Completely agree about the extremism!

    2. Thanks Jas!

      Any form of extremism or any non-meritocratic behaviour is bad for most people in our socio economic group who have had benefits of a good education and a good lifestyle throughout. I would argue it is bad for everyone and would vehemently maintain that the benefits are short lived even for the people who are out throwing stones and downing shutters. But they slum guy who got a job as a salesman in a mall in mumbai because of 'hire-marathis' policy will disagree. So will the landless labourer who got a life better than before due to naxalite terrorism against his oppressors.

      So either I know better than them whats good for them or I have to make allowance for their disagreement with my beliefs.

  3. i might be handcuffed for this comment :D
    that's a good take...

    1. :) You have no idea how much back-and-forth I did before I finally decided to publish this on my blog :D Hope you are still in network :D

    2. Thanks D! dont answer the door now.... ;)

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