Raj Thackeray will always be synonymous with political posturing in my eyes. I remember him from my school days as the instigator of unrest prompted by grave offences such as the Bombay Scottish School’s supposedly illegal, colonial name, and shop signs which were not in Marathi.
Every time he found a new great evil he had to rally his party workers against, he inevitably turned into a punchline for the next few weeks. Despite his often violent methods, it was hard for me to take him seriously because of what I saw as the triviality of his causes. Indeed, at a point I even got excited when I heard he had caused some new disturbance, because I hoped school would get cancelled. I knew he would eventually be appeased and everything would quickly normalize.
At a rally this weekend, Thackeray criticized the Modi government, Akshay Kumar, and the handling of Sridevi’s untimely demise. He called Kumar’s films such as Toilet Ek Prem Katha and Padman propaganda manifestations of government schemes, drawing attention the supposed hypocrisy of Kumar’s ardent nationalism in the face of his Canadian citizenship.
He additionally alleged that Sridevi’s state funeral was undeserved, despite her national honors, in part because of the alcohol found in her system. He states that the media attention around her death was orchestrated to pull attention away from the Nirav Modi scam, which left the BJP government red-faced. The remarks came after his meeting with Congress leader Sharad Pawar ahead of the rally.
Thackeray’s statements show him to be an antiquated, out of touch, inadequate political theorist. They were born out of what seems to be a new unlikely alliance rooted only in opportunism, an attempt to pool forces in the face of the BJP’s sudden perceived vulnerability ahead of next year’s elections. For someone whose political leanings are meant to be completely set in stone, his apparent change in allegiance away from the national Hindutva banner displays his inclination toward power, not policy.
His criticism of Akshay Kumar indicates that Thackeray’s rhetoric continues to lack what it always has: pragmatism. Kumar has Canadian citizenship because it was a choice he had the resources to make, and it is a legal maneuver meant to best safeguard his family’s interests. Many people make the same choice, and his status as a public figure does not diminish his right to do so as well. His films may promote the same message as some recent government initiatives, but they are basic causes which deserve propagation regardless of party support.
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