All hail Maharashtra’s latest C.M.
Strange, isn’t it?? Chief Ministers of other states come and go, like fluffy cotton balls blowing in the wind. Nobody remembers and nobody cares. But when it comes to the chief ministers of Maharashtra, India monitors the appointment keenly. As keenly as it follows the prime ministerial race. In fact, so closely are Maharashtra’s assembly election results watched, that if one of the short- listed candidates sneezes, the entire party catches a cold. This particular post has always enjoyed a special sheen. It has traditionally been the single most coveted political job for Maharashtrian politicos in search of overnight power and glory (or gaudy Dilli dreams). More is the pity then, that we have been stuck with one mediocre chap after another for the past decade. The people of the state have watched its decline in horror. But done so mutely. They have seen its premier position slip from the top to the present ignominious one at the bottom of the heap. They have observed Maharshtra going from the most prosperous state of the country to a broke one. And they have said nothing.
The recent Assembly elections with a less than a 50% turnout are indicators of the apathy and indifference of voters – nobody it would seem, gives a damn. People are sick of the farce we call elections. They know they have zero say in the way the State is run. They also know nothing is likely to change, regardless of which person’s backside warms that gaadi in Mantralaya. This is the way it has been for far too long, and the pity is, the average Maharashtrian believes this is the way it is likely to remain. As we all know, there were no issues in this election, no real agenda, no blueprint for growth and progress. Not a single candidate spoke in a new, inspiring language. Nor did a wild card neta appear on the scene to galvanise the masses. The only debate revolved around the Marathi Manoos and whether or not citizens should be punished for referring to Mumbai as Bombay ( Karan Johar paid a hefty price for that ‘error’ and had to go crawling to Raj Thackeray’s residence with an apology). Even with all these fiery exchanges, nobody is quite sure as to who this mythical creature – the ‘marathi manoos’ really is?? In fact, I often ask myself the obvious question : do I qualify?? I may be Maharashtrian by birth, and I live in Mumbai by choice. I love the city passionately and would never want to live anywhere else. Is that good enough? Even though Marathi is my mother tongue, I don’t speak it as well as I speak English ( a shameful admission, but then , I didn’t choose my school ). I am married to a Bengali gentleman from Kolkata , who also loves the city equally, has lived here for over thirty years, employs several Maharashtrians and thinks of Mumbai as his home. His fluency in the local lingo is pretty dodgy if not downright embarrassing. He definitely thinks of himself as a bonafide Maharashtrian. But will he be accepted as one? I am still unclear about how one makes the cut, even though Raj and Uddhav Thackeray have both tried hard to spell it out for the aam aadmi. And considering this was the main, perhaps only, plank on which this election was fiercely fought, more straight talk and clarity would have certainly helped.
Most television debates also preferred to focus on just this one aspect ( outsider-insider) of life in Mumbai – not the rest of Maharashtra. It was bizarre. Mumbai alone is not Maharashtra, even though it is Mumbai that keeps Maharashtra from going under. It is Mumbai that has saved the State from ruin time and time again. Despite that hefty contribution to the State’s and the country’s coffers, Mumbai remains a sadly neglected metropolis, running on auto pilot and coping the only way it has taught itself to…. with the indomitable efforts of Mumbaikars who refuse to give in or give up. The last politico who was seen as a ‘doer’ was Nitin Gadkari, credited with having built a record number of flyovers in record time . Well…. Nitin is around, in a manner of speaking. We hear him thundering on various channels, but once his short reign as ‘Flyover King’ was over, he melted into the crowd and was out of the C.M. loop. The others who tried to steal his thunder, fell by the wayside…. and no new flyovers or expressways were commissioned by anyone. Yes, Mumbai finally got its much delayed Sea Link at a crazy price after an insane wait, but the jubilation came with some sobering after- thoughts. Citizens remain grateful for this new, glittering showpiece that has made their commute in and out of South Mumbai that much faster. But do our monster city’s infrastructural problems begin and end with a pricey bridge?
Forget the pathetic plight of suicidal farmers from Vidharba for a minute ( same folk, still ploughing parched fields with yoked bullocks, like their forefathers from medieval times), ask any Maharashtrian from any which part of the state whether he\she is happy? You must have guessed the answer. It is not about appointing a CEO for Mumbai or treating Mumbai as a separate entity. That won’t save either the city or the State. The time has come for divine intervention. The first anniversary of the dastardly terror attacks of 26\11 is upon us. Strange , that not a single political party made security a primary election issue. Do they really feel all that safe? Or are they just smug in the knowledge that once they win, Mumbai will become their personal property, to be haggled over and sold to the highest bidder – caste, creed, no bar??
The verdict is out. The Congress is in.
Hey Jagdambba Devi – may the worst man not win – that is the only prayer left!
Have to rush to keep my date with Rakhi Sawant!