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Jai Maharashtra doesn’t make a good transport system

Monday, July 17, 2017
By Prashant Hamine

Once again the ruling Shiv Sena and its political clone the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) are typically at their usual best, that is falling back on rabble rousing parochial issues like regionalism.

First it was the Sena that protested against the Karnataka government's decision to ban the use of Marathi political phrases like Jai Maharashtra anywhere in Karnataka, by painting Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses that operate right up to Mumbai. Not to be left behind, MNS choose to attend a meeting called by Karnataka Rakshan Vedike (KRV) on the issue of protecting regional identity and opposing the imposition of Hindi.

It is the same KRV that vehemently tooth-and-nail opposes and bad-mouths Maharashtra over the disputed town of Belgaum in its own territory. The denial of the Karnataka government to use Marathi as the official language in the predominantly Marathi speaking town of Belgaum is in sharp contrast to the KRV’s clarion call to all regional forces to join hands against imposition of Hindi. The border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over the disputed town of Belgaum is not new, the dispute has been festering between the two states since the 1960’s, often arousing strong passions on both the sides of the divide.

So when Karnataka Minister Roshan Baig announced a ban on the use of Jai Maharashtra slogan in Karnataka, Sena activists were quick in pouncing on the issue, painting all KSRTC buses entering our state with the same slogan. The Sena or its Minister for Public Transport Diwakar Raote however do little and don't bother about KSRTC’s luxury sleeper AC coaches Airavat coming all the way to Mumbai to do business here and tap our markets here. State owned buses from neighbouring Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana operate routes to Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra and tap their income here as well.

All that the cash-starved Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) does is throw a lavish dinner party to celebrate its minister's wedding anniversary. The MSRTC does not operate even ordinary buses to Ahmedabad, Bengaluru or Hyderabad. Neither has the Sena which is now part of the government ever bothered to ask its estranged ruling ally the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) about why the government is paying so heavily for hiring a lawyer in the Supreme Court of India just to argue its side in the Belgaumborder dispute case with Karnataka.

These days the Sena's policy of attacking its own government, its own alliance partner the BJP is increasingly becoming counter-productive and embarrassing for itself. The Sena which opposes and argues it is with the farmers in their agitation over the Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Corridor, finds its own Minister for Public Works Eknath Shinde awarding compensation to the farmers for their land parcels purchased in Thane district. The Sena and its Ministers appear to have abandoned their cause of espousing regional issues in its bid to cling on to power and it is increasingly exposing itself. The Sena was at the forefront of leading agitations in the disputed town of Belgaum in Karnataka, today it does not even send the MSRTC buses there.

MNS general secretary Sandip Deshpande may have been swept off his feet by the grand reception he received from the KRV which had organised a conclave of parties and outfits having regional agendas in Bengaluru. The KRV activists had blackened Hindi words from signboards in Bengaluru Metro. The MNS had a valid point when it forced the Ministry of Railways to issue advertisements of railway recruitment jobs in regional languages as well, as earlier such job openings were only known to candidates from North India that often led to violent clashses.

Pandering too much to regional identities and issues can be dangerous and counter-productive and can lead to further fragmentation of subregional identities. The same Shiv Sena and MNS vehemently oppose the creation of separate state of Vidarbha, but want Karnataka to give up on Belgaum. At the same time both of them whole heartedly support the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti bid to merge Belgaum with Maharashtra. The KRV is pandering to its regional identity as Karnataka is going to assembly polls in May 2018. Deshpande and MNS have no qualms in sharing platform with an outfit that opposes Maharashtras claim over Belgaum.

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