The last one month saw three unfortunate incidents wherein national pride was placed at a lower pedestal. Narrow, sectarian, communal, regional, linguistic pride was given primacy. The first incident took place at the Deoband Ulema Conference, where Muslim clerics issued a fatwa banning recital of Vande Mataram by Muslims. National pride was placed secondary to communal pride. Sadly, only a section of the Indian politicians had the courage to tell the ulemas that they were wrong. The second incident occurred in the Maharastra Legislative Assembly wherein Abu Azmi was manhandled by the MNS MLAs for refusing to take oath in Marathi. Here the sanctity of the Legislative was hurt. In a democracy legislatures are one of the most sacred, whose dignity and honour has to be maintained. It was not for the first time that the honour of the legislalure has been hurt. Such incidents have taken place in different states at different times for the sake of petty political gains. Such ghastly behaviour in the legislatures deserve severe condemnation. The third incident was when Sachin Tendulkar, a world-class cricketer and a sports person whom every Indian should be proud of, was not only criticized but also warned by Bala Saheb Thackeray for saying that he is an Indian first and that Mumbai belongs to India.
All the three incidents were aimed at vote bank politics. The studied silence of the secular politicians on the Deoband fatwa was part of appeasement policy of the Muslim vote bank. The Maharashtra Assembly incident perpetrated by MNS, the party headed by Raj Thackeray and the uncalled for out-burst by his uncle Balasaheb Thackeray against Sachin have a connection. Both are aimed at the Marathi vote bank and are playing a tug of war to pull Marathi sympathy to their respective parties. Raj, the nephew, was denied an important role in the Shiv Sena whereas Uddhav, the son, was handed over the keys to the Thackeray empire. The nephew broke away and demonstrated that he had better political acumen than the son. The outcome of the recent Assembly elections in Maharastra was a shocker for the Shiv Sena. Numerical strength wise it stood fourth in the State Assembly. For the first time in the history of BJP-Shiv Sena coalition the number of Shiv Sena MLA’s is lesser than the BJP. Balasaheb Thackery has a reason to worry. The family fued has cost him dearly. Winning back the Marathi voter has become a prime concern. Hence this attempt to put Marathi identity before national identity.
Today’s vote bank politics is playing a very destructive role in the Indian society. Formation of linguistic states has resulted in a clamour for linguistic vote banks and has done more harm than it has done good. Linguistic groups and linguistic identity has become a tool in the dirty games politicians play. Param Pujaniya Guruji had cautioned about the dangerous implications of creating linguistic states, but his sane advice went unheeded. Vote bank politics is playing havoc with the country’s unity. Politicians only add fuel to the fire. A range of politicians were quick to criticize Balasaheb Thackeray for his comments on what Sachin Tendulkar said. Congress MP Rajiv Shukla was quick to react. He was right when he said that national pride comes first, everything else comes afterwards. He lent whole hearted support to Tendulkar and lambasted Thackeray for putting regional identity before national identity. But then why was Shukla selective in putting national identity before everything else? Why did he fail to tell the ulemas, who have issued a fatwa against reciting Vande Mataram, that national pride comes first and communal pride afterwards? The answer is simple. His so-called secular party cannot afford to loose Muslim votes on the issue of Vande Mataram. All those so-called secular politicians who condemned Thackeray were mum on the Deoband ulema’s fatwa. Why is the importance of national pride told only to Thackeray and not to the ulemas? The truth is that our secular politicians cannot remain afloat without the communal vote banks.
The role of the media too needs to be scrutinised. The interview in which Sachin Tendulkar spoke of being an Indian first and of Mumbai belonging to India was taken on the occasion of his completing 20 years in first-class cricket. Where was the need to ask him whether, on the background of the recent Marathi – non Marathi conflict in Maharastra, what did he think as a Maharastrian and about the status of Mumbai? The question was completely unwarranted. The way this question was put leads one to believe that it was mischievous. The interviewer reminded Sachin that he was a Maharastrian and then went on to ask him what he feels about the issue. It is this that causes a doubt about the intentions of the interviewer. Sachin’s answer was the same as any right thinking Indian would have said. The channel kept on telecasting this answer repeatedly in the promos of the interview. Was it meant to provoke one of the three Thackerays- Balashaheb or Uddhav or Raj? There is ample scope to believe that it was actually meant to provoke the Sena leaders. Assuming for a moment, had Sachin said that he was a Maharastrian first and Mumbai belong to Maharashtra. Then there was another set of leaders who could be provoked into bashing the great cricketer. Should we say that the question was very cleverly or rather cunningly placed to rake up a controversy?
As far as media is concerned news does not sell unless there is some spice in it. If there is no spice then it has to be added. If there is no story then a story has to be created, spice added to it and presented to the viewers and readers. The question put to Sachin Tendulkar was, it seems, with an intention to create a spicy story. If so, then it served the purpose. Such an exercise increases the TRP or circulation followed by an increase in the advertisement revenue. But it is this rat race for TRP that causes harm to the nation and to the society. The same people who put TRP rating above everything else do not forget to tell us that national interest should be kept above everything else.
Vote bank politics and the TRP race is causing great harm to the nation and the society. The solution lies in society realising the importance of the inherent civilisational unity and the cultural ethos of our great land. The symbols and icons of our national identity will have to be remembered time and again. The values passed on from generation to generation need to be practiced. Also important is that we learn to see through the games played by power hungry politicians and TRP and circulation hungry media.