On October 11, 2021, Maharashtra witnessed unprecedented political vandalism – a state sponsor Bandh that the state's citizens never before witnessed. The Bandh was declared by the three ruling parties of the state – Shivsena, NCP and Congress. Although the given reason was to protest against the Lakhimpur Khiri incidence in Uttar Pradesh, the main objective, according to the political observers, was to make a show of strength as there are ED, IT and CBI raids going on against the political stalwarts of NCP and Congress and Shivsena. The NCB has also nabbed a few high-profile people related to Bollywood, and a son-in-law of a powerful NCP minister has been under NCB custody without getting bail for several months now.
Politics of Goondaism
For a long, the ruling political parties in Maharashtra, particularly Shiv Sena and NCP, have been known for their notorious high handedness and politics of goondaism. Shiv Sena always took pride in shutting the city calling "Bandhs" for any small reason using stone-pelting and muscle power to shut markets and traffic. NCP is no better.
But today's Bandh was different as these parties are in power today and used the police force at many places to shut the markets. Government ministers gave unprecedented statements calling for Bandh while duty-bound to protecto the people against forceful Bandh. This scenario created situations never witnessed before in the state. People wanted to open the shops and offices, but police supporting Shiv Sena and NCP goons forced shopkeepers to shut shop at many places.
Use of State Machinery To Impose Bandh
At various places, police are seen "requesting" forcefully to the shopkeepers to shut shop. At Eastern and western express highways, the ruling party workers in as small a group as eight to ten were seen blocking the entire six (at some places eight lanes) lane highway under the protection of the police.
At many places, Shiv Sena workers using their patent show of Goondaism, forcefully downed the shutters of the shops. Some even slapped the shopkeepers in the face at some places who opposed the Bandh.
The stone pelter Shiv Sena workers damaged eight BEST buses in the morning. The irony is Shiv Sena itself controls the BEST corporation. Mumbai Municipal Corporation, which owns the BEST corporation, is ruled by Shiv Sena. "Thats called hypocrisy", quipped Ram Jadhav, a small vegetable vendor at Bhuleshwar who travels daily by BEST bus. At many places, state GST officers were used to pressure the shopkeepers to shut their shops, alleged Ex-CM Devendra Fadnavis.
The readers must be reminded that this is a leftist style of imposing Hartal using state machinery and police force which has crippled the Pashchim Bang economy over decades and made the entrepreneurs run away from the state of Pashchim Bang. The culture of state-sponsored Bandh / Hartal resulted in unemployment on a large scale, led to starvation and outbound migration of skilled labour from Pashchim Bang.
In Maharashtra, Mumbai was once the largest manufacturing hub for textiles, having N number of textile mills. The city prospered over the decades due to textile manufacturing mills. But Datta Samant, the legendary strike king, imposed a strike that lasted for years, which forced the closure of all the textile mills in the city. The workers who prospered along with the mills went bankrupt, losing jobs. The entire city economy was permanently harmed. The mills never restarted, forcing many workers to suicide and many to flee the city. The crippled lower middle class that was dependent on textile mills never recovered from the financial crisis.
Many political analysts allege that Datta Samant had the support of the ruling party Congress. Congress just milked the agitation to petty political gains but never helped the drowning workers. The workers then rallied behind the Shiv Sena.
The irony is that the Shiv Sena, which thrived due to the support of the workers stricken hard by the Datta Samant strike, kept nourishing the same culture of Bandh and Hartal using muscle power for the short term political gains. Shiv Sena never realised that the citizens never approved the culture of Bandh as many people depend upon the daily wages. Even the larger shops that run businesses on competitive margins never support Bandh. BJP realised it very early and stopped calling Bandh / Hartal for local issues way back ago.
But today's state-sponsored Bandh created a serious concern among the political observers that the state of Maharashtra, which once was "the" leading industrial state, might be forced to slip on the path of economic and industrial self-destruction, as the state machinery which is meant to protect citizens against goondaism, itself indulged in goondaism to impose unwanted Bandh upon the citizens. The traders' bodies, entrepreneurs' organisations and farmers would hardly trust the government machinery again for protection.
Today's Bandh A Large Failure Outside Mumbai
In general, today's state-sponsored Bandh by MVA Government led by Thackrey was a large failure as private shops and markets were open in many towns and cities of the state. APMCs controlled by NCP were shut, but retail shops were open.
In Jalgaon district, in some places, which are local Shiv Sena MLAs' strongholds, the Shiv Sena and NCP workers stone pelted the shops and attacked shopkeepers and rickshaw drivers with rods and lathis. Still, the Bandh was an overall failure.
State Road Transport buses (MSRTC) were off roads at many places due to stone pelting and tyre burning by Shiv Sena and NCP workers at some places.
In Pune and many parts of Mumbai residential area like Dadar west and rest of the eastern suburbs of the city, downtown Pune's main retail market area like Laxmi road, some markets of cities like Kolhapur, Satara and Latur, and many other towns, Monday is a traditional weekly holiday for retail shops. The city of Solapur was largely open, with all the social and market activities open. Many towns of Konkan witnessed thriving markets despite Konkan being called the stronghold of Shiv Sena.
That said, today's state-sponsored Bandh can be marked as a large failure.
Ex-CM and current Leader of Opposition Shri Devendra Fadnavis has strongly criticised the use of state machinery and police by Udhav Thackrey Govt to forcibly impose Bandh upon people. He said that this Thakrey Government has never given any help to the farmers of Maharashtra who are facing severe natural calamities one after another. The MVA Government led by Thackrey is a hypocrite, as it is shelling crocodile tears for the people in Lakhimpur Khiri in UP and completely ignoring the farmers of its own state.
Shri Madhav Bhandari, BJP vice president and ideologue, told The Organiser that "todays Bandh is not linked to any ideology and its hypocrite. The Bandh was called to support the farmers of Lakhimpur Khiri, but the farmers at Latur are agitating for more than 72 hour now for the rates of soyabean and no one from state government has even glanced over to them. The farmers of the state have faced so many natural calamities like two major cyclones, cloudbursts, floods and wet drought from last two years, and even Panchnamas have not been done to asses the loss, let alone the help. The state government has not given a single rupee yet to the Maharashtra farmers."
"There are reports that state machinery was used to bully the traders' associations to convey a message that said, "remember Mansukh Hirani !" Madhav Bhandari claimed. This is a very serious issue, and BJP will expose the persons involved, he said. (Mansukh Hirani was a trader murdered last year by Sachin Vaze, an extortionist police officer, who was reinstated by Thackrey Govt and who is currently in CBI custody.)
State BJP leader Shri Ashish Shelar also criticised the Thakrey Government heavily, saying this is a forceful Bandh imposed on the unwilling citizens under the aegis of the Government, and the MVA will get a perfect fitting response from the citizens in the future. Shelar said that the 'regressive' Maha Vikas Aghadi government are in favour of only two words – bandh and impede. The people of Maharashtra have been experiencing this for the past two years. Now that farmers, traders, students are trying to bounce back with their normal activities, the government is once again trying to bring them to a screeching halt.