Tuesday, June 28, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Weird twists and turns in politics


Weird twists and turns in politics
Published: Tuesday, Jun 21, 2011, 1:35 IST
By Deepak Lokhande | Place: Mumbai

Growing up in one of the most humble bastis in Mumbai taught me
several things. Rajkaran gajkaran hai (politics is a disease) was a
favourite saying in our neighbourhood, which was totally dominated by
the Shiv Sena. Two of my less-educated friends always threw this line
at me and I never understood it.

But today, as one reads reports about how Gopinath Munde is upset with
his party, the BJP, about Dalit leader Ramdas Athavale hugging the
Shiv Sena after the Congress 'denied' him a share of power; and about
the Sena's claims that it 'never' opposed the renaming of Marathwada
University after Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, I believe what my friends used
to tell me.

It is true that public memory is short, but individual memory need not
be. For instance, Munde claims he has been sidelined in the state BJP
(after the sudden elevation of his rival Nitin Gadkari as national
president), but scores of other veteran BJP leaders had felt the same
way when Munde was catapulted to the top by the late Vasantrao
Bhagwat. When he was in full flight, Munde too had trodden on many
toes, just as he complains is happening to him now.

His plight is similar to the battle between Rajendra Shekhawat
(husband of president Pratibha Patil) and former Congress minister
Sunil Deshmukh in Amravati. Deshmukh for 20 years ruled the roost in
the Amravati region; Shekhavat could do nothing. But his fortunes
changed once Patil became president, forcing Deshmukh to mellow down.
Shekhavat had made a classic statement: "It's a cycle. Did we utter a
word (when things weren't going our way)?"

Athavale's hugging the Sena, which had strongly opposed the renaming
of Marathwada varsity, is a similar joke. Of course, the irony is hard
to miss: the very Sena that changed Bombay to Mumbai to underline its
Marathi roots and pride had asked Dalits what they were going to
attain by renaming Marathwada varsity after Dr Ambedkar. The Dalit
pride theory didn't wash then.

Athavale and quite a few Dalits are looking at the new alliance in the
hope that it will deliver power to them, and they shouldn't be blamed.
The Congress leadership always used Athavale and his followers as a
strategic vote bank; now the Congress will have to earn the support of
the Dalits and the new alignments will make everyone assess their

Last, but not the least. It is quite farcical to see how the forces
are realigned. Rewind to 1996. Over a dozen Dalit protesters were
killed in police firing at Ramabai Nagar in Ghatkopar. Munde, as the
home minister in the Sena-BJP government, had stoutly defended the
firing. The then leader of the opposition Chhagan Bhujbal (who has
been accused of washing clean the Hutatma Chowk following a fierce
Dalit agitation in the '80s while he was still in the Sena) tore into
Munde and the Sena-BJP government. And Athavale, who claims to
represent the entire Dalit community, had to run for his life after
angry Dalits chased him away while on a visit to Ramabai Nagar.

Like my friends said, rajkaran gajkaran hai.


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