It’s easy to disagree with Raj Thackeray. He is too firm in his views and he minces no words while making his point. He won’t cede an inch from his position, no matter how much you try. He comes across as a person who is too sincere about his convictions even if they are not palatable to the world beyond his immediate circle or the party he heads, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. But give it to him. He knows how to stand his ground.
In his interview with Times Now’s Arnab Goswami, which was aired today, he reiterated his stand on migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh emphatically. His argument about the involvement of people from the states in criminal activities in Maharashtra and the numbers did not quite add up though. He was not convincing enough, answering why he should get so excited about an official communication from the Bihar government to its Maharastra counterpart over arrest of criminals without intimating the local police authorities.
But he said what he had to firmly. He also made it clear that it did not matter to him if people criticised him for his views. His fears about migrants might look exaggerated but it is difficult to deny that at some level he is addressing to the genuine fear of a section of the state’s people. His question is simple: “Everyday close to 48 trains come to Maharashtra from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. These trains come to Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Kolhapur, Marathwada. Where do the people go?”
Not many criticising Raj have answered that yet. Of course, the pressure on the police administration and the civic infrastructure of the state due to the steady influx of migrants is an issue that requires attention, if not the shrill rhetoric of the kind the MNS chief specialises in.
On the controversy involving Asha Bhosle, he was equally bland. He reasserted that the singer should have refused to work with singers from Pakistan in a television reality show. He said the artists from Pakistan should pressure their own government government to change their attitude towards India. It’s a simplistic position on the Indo-Pak relations all the Senas have been taking for decades. So Raj was only reaffirming his old position. However, his comparison between the Pakistani singers Runa Laila and Abida Parveen and terrorist Ajmal Kasab looked too stretched to be convincing.
His remarks on the relationship between him and Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and the possibility of the two Senas coming together before the 2014 assembly elections were along the predictable lines.
However, his take on the media was rivetting. While putting them— particularly the Hindi media— to the sword over professional ‘misconduct’ he was bang on most of the time. He slammed the tendency in the television media to twist the debates according to the anchors’ whims and prejudices and their propensity to overreach. When the interviewer asked whether political parties would decide a channel’s content, he said in that case “a channel should not decide a political party’s content or message.” Most of the leaders routinely battered during panel discussions in television studios must have thanked him for venting the anger they never could.
“Will channels take a decision for our country? For your TRPs you will twist what I say and incite people. You mean if you provoke people it is fine. But if I am speaking the truth you will say that Raj Thackeray is making inflammatory speeches,’’ he told Goswami. He also asked the media whether they ever apologised to people after committing a mistake.
It is not easy to ignore the media’s excesses and the growing tendency among journalists to behave arrogantly. Possibly, Raj has issued a warning on behalf of the entire political class. The MNS chief issued a veiled threat to the media again, asking them to behave. Well, we will let that pass. Raj Thackeray will be Raj Thackeray.