Mumbai: With the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) calling off its agitation against the release of Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM) on Saturday, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has more than one reason to celebrate. Apart from preventing any untoward violence due to the anti-Pakistan protests, Fadnavis, who has been the face of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) in the state, has also given his party a way to counter its bitter ally Shiv Sena, experts believe.
Though allies, the BJP and Shiv Sena have been at loggerheads for some time throwing allegations of corruption at each other.
According to party insiders, the BJP had been looking for ways to counter Shiv Sena's influence ahead of the municipal council election starting from 27 November, and the MNS' stand against Pakistani artistes gave it a chance to do just that. A rising MNS is bad news for Shiv Sena, something which the BJP high command seems to believe in too.
Party sources told Firstpost that Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was in Mumbai on Friday, had met Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and discussed the MNS' agitation against the release of films with Pakistani actors. Singh had categorically told Fadnavis to gauge the issue, and instructed him to prevent any law and order situation that may arise due the release of the film. And by acting as the mediator between MNS and the Film and Television Producers Guild of India, Fadnavis did just that.
By managing to get the producers guild to agree to all its three demands — first, a written consent to not hire any Pakistani citizens in any future projects; second, add a slate in the film paying tribute to the soldiers who died in the Uri attack; and third, donate Rs 5 crore to the Army Welfare Fund — the MNS has achieved something that even the Shiv Sena couldn't in the past. Remember that Shiv Sena had carried out similar agitation during the release of the Shah Rukh Khan's film, My Name is Khan, but had downplayed its opposition. In contrary, the MNS had kept the momentum up since day one.
"The MNS has not gone on the back foot. All the three conditions have been accepted because of the party.Till today, the producers guild had not given a written letter to Army Welfare Fund," says MNS leader Avinash Abhayankar.
While one may argue whether the MNS won or caved in by allowing the release of ADHM, one cannot ignore the calculated moves that Raj Thackeray took to ensure its demands were not rejected. Before Saturday's meeting, Raj Thackeray was well aware of the fact that Karan Johar had plans of paying tribute to the soldiers killed in the Uri attack, as well as helping the families of those soldiers, sources told Firstpost. And that's why MNS had called an urgent party meeting on Friday. During the meeting, two issues were raised: First, if the release is opposed during Diwali, and the MNS workers are arrested, the party should back its members. Second, the MNS should continue its agitation against Pakistani artistes at any cost. However, Thackeray had refrained from giving a reply and had said that he would take a final decision in 48 hours.
So, next morning, when Thackeray reached the Fadnavis residence, Varsha bungalow, he knew what he wanted and what the producers guild would happily agree with. According to Abhayankar, "In the one-hour meeting, both Mukesh Bhatt and Karan Johar apologised to Fadnavis and Thackeray saying that they made a big mistake and they didn't want to upset the sentiments of Indians, however, considering the film was made when India-Pakistan relations were good, it should be allowed to release," thus ending the deadlock.
As for Fadnavis, he had already told Thackeray that he won't allow any violence associated with the film release.
All of which makes one wonder, why did the MNS and the BJP extend the agitation for so long.
"The extra footage given to the MNS and Raj Thackeray in the ADHM agitation is through BJP," says political analyst Abhay Deshpande. "It was clearly to make the MNS look strong. A strong MNS is BJP's gain and Sena's loss," he adds.
Updated Date: Oct 22, 2016 18:41 PM