Maharashtra turns 50; Sachin, Lata, Thacekrays pay tribute
As Maharashtra celebrates 50 years of its statehood today, the self-proclaimed champions of the Marathi manoos: the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena have launched a series of programs to attract the Marathi vote from roping in Lata Mangeskar to sing praises of the state to felicitating master blaster Sachin Tendulkar.
Sena supremo Bal Thackeray is using everything from party mouthpiece Saamna to the voice of singer Lata Mangeshkar, even a record breaking blood donation drive.
Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray said, "The youth of today who attend rave parties need to know what sacrifice is. It is not enough to just visit the martyrs memorial."
Raj Thackeray, MNS Chief retorted, "I have woken up those who were sleeping. Lata Mangeshkar came even when I invited her to my function." Lata Mangeshkar will perform at a Shiv Sena organised function later today where she is expected to sing the same song she sang 50 years ago, the day Maharashtra was born.
Activities have sparked off a war of words between Bal Thackeray and his nephew Raj who broke away from the Sena to launch the MNS.
The war of words is taking place not just at public events but even on public hoardings.
Shiv Sena first put up a hoarding outside the Sena Bhavan or Sena headquarters in Dadar, saying- Some chose to break blood relations, others forged new relations through blood, a clear reference to the Sena's blood donation drive, spearheaded by party Executive President, Uddhav, but making a point about his cousin Raj. Not to be left behind in this hoarding battle, the MNS put one up right next to the Sena's claiming the MNS' love for the land, read Maharashtra, went way beyond family ties.
Shiv Sena Spokesperson, Sanjay Raut joined in. "What is this MNS? We have Bal Thackeray who was part of the fight for Maharashtra on our side."
The MNS in its turn organised food festivals, football tourneys and even felicitated prominent Marathis including Sachin Tendulkar who was recently targetted by Bal Thackeray. Sachin Tendulkar was also presented with a replica of the Jagdamba sword. Besides the master blaster, other prominent dignitaries felicitated include cricketers Dilip Vengsarkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, historian Babasaheb Purandare, Dr. R Mhashelkar, actors Ashok Saraf, Sachin Pilgaonkar, renowned singer Kishori Amonkar.
The level to which the Thackeray conflict has reached perhaps best reflected at the statue of family patriarch Prabodhankar Thackeray that stands near the Portuguese statue in Dadar. A well-known social reformer and activist, Prabodhankar Thackeray played a key role in the fight for a united Maharashtra. Fifty years on his statue is lined almost evenly with flags of his warring descendants.
In the midst of it all, is Mumbai's Marathi manoos taking the bait?
One lady from Andheri said, "All of them are fighting for the Marathis, but we have seen little success from it."
A staunch Raj Thackeray supporter added, "The brothers may be fighting but we are benefitting from it. And Raj Thackeray has led the way."
Another Mumbaikar said, "Their fight is an internal family fight. We see them as being united for our cause."
So is this political one upmanship really benefitting the Marathi manoos, for whom all this is being done? The jury as they say is still out on that.