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A political remake of Sholay

Monday, June 27, 2016

Director Ramesh Sippy had vehemently argued that he was against the remaking of his 1975 cult classic ‘Sholay’. He termed it as imprudent. Little would he have known that four decades later his Bollywood flick would be ‘copied’ and ‘parodied’ in the political world of Maharashtra, starring bitterly estranged ruling allies; the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiv Sena.

It is a sign of how low the political discourse has sunk.

The 1975 cult classic was remembered for its fictional characters and its dialogues. The parody of it that panned out last week between the Sena and BJP was one that would have made Gabbar Singh cringe.

The BJP spokesperson Bhandari ruffled Sena feathers on 25 June by drawing up a dramatic analogy, comparing Asrani to the Sholay comic character Jailor. After the jibe the BJP leadership retreated into the background of the ‘set.’ The drame seems to have been a small test battle before the real battle for the BMC begins in right earnest after the monsoon drowns the city.

What plays out in the glare of the camera’s right now is a psychological and tactical war that stars even senior Congress leader Gurudas Kamat who through his retirement drama ensured that his status and importance is enhanced beyond any threat.

Earlier, last week Sena president Uddhav Thackeray in a bid to pacify his cadres sounded confusing and belligerent at the same time. He did say that he was prepared for an alliance with the BJP, but it had to be an honorable one. At the same time he had asked his cadres to be ready to fight it out on their own strength. He did admit that he got little time to reposition himself as the alliance with BJP broke just on the eve of 2014 Assembly elections. It is apparently clear that the Sena leadership was both clueless about BJPs gameplan and had been clearly outsmarted by the BJP.

It is here that the BJPs analogy of Asrani asking his policemen file in different directions only to find none of his men left standing behind him that ranked the Sena rank and file.

The BMC has been Senas main and real source of power over the last 15 years. Over the years there has been the passing of the era of Balasaheb Thackeray and Pramod Mahajan. The latter had sounded it out way back in 2004 that 10 years from now BJP will run for government on its own. And it almost did in October 2014. It had to later arm-twist the Sena in joining the government.

Political life had come full circle. The oppressor of the past is now subjugated. As its heart and soul lay in the BMC the Sena followed suit. It is for this reason and to keep a tab on his own flock that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has kept key portfolios like Home, Urban Development and now Revenue with him. The Sena too is well aware of the immense power that these crucial portfolios wield.

On the other hand even as the Sena and BJP are fighting a bitter turf war over Mumbai, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are both fighting demons within. That Kamat could flex his political muscles and extract his pound of flesh shows the clout he enjoys as against former Senaman and Mumbai Congress president Sanjay Nirupam. Even 17 years after its formation in Mumbai, the NCP has never ever really been able to strike political roots in the city of its birth. To many its remained an outsider, an outsider from Western Maharashtra. It is doubtful to say whether the AAP or MIM may be able to make use of this politically fluid situation to their advantage.

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