Kahin Khushi Kahin Gham
One can understand the agony of the Chief Minister and his care for
the state when he said Kahin Khushi Kahin
Gham reacting on the Railway budget. However we write this with
Although the Congress' decision to
exclude Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan from its election
campaign in Bihar is not headline news at the national level, it
still has damaging implications for the party.
Chavan is the second chief minister to be kept out of Bihar. The
first was his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi. In the latter's
case, the decision - though formally the Bharatiya Janata Party's
(BJP) - was in response to Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader and
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's objections on account of
Modi's anti-minority reputation.
In Chavan's case, however, the decision is his own party's. What
is more, it has nothing to do with any unavoidable or wilful
administrative lapses or political motivation, as in Modi's case,
but with the charges of corruption which Chavan is facing.
As a result, it is something of a first. It is not often that a
chief minister - and that too of such a large and important state
like Maharashtra - turns out to be so much of an embarrassment for
his party that he cannot be allowed to go on a public stage. In
this respect, the Congress as well as Maharashtra has much to be
In a way, Maharashtra's decline has been quite precipitous. There
was a time when it was regarded as one of the best-run states and
Bombay, as it was known till 1995, a model metropolis, which was
replacing Calcutta, as it was known till 2001, as India's premier
Although the standards of politicians were nowhere near that of
Tilak and Gokhale, Maharashtra still had in Y.B. Chavan someone
competent enough to be summoned to New Delhi at a time of national
crisis to replace V.K. Krishna Menon as defence minister after the
Chinese invasion. After Chavan's departure from the state, there
has been no one who can be held up as someone worthy of emulation.
Sharad Pawar showed promise for a while but did not live up to it.
It is the poverty of leadership in recent years and the earlier
bifurcation of the former Bombay state into Maharashtra and
Gujarat that are responsible for the state's decline and fall. The
roots of parochialism, which were sown during the Samyukta
(united) Maharashtra movement, are eroding its reputation today.
Not surprisingly, one of the leaders of the agitation was
Prabodhankar Thackeray, whose son, Balasaheb, set up the Shiv Sena
in 1966, a fascistic outfit which thrives on violence and the
targeting of vulnerable groups like Muslims and north Indian
vendors and taxi drivers.
What is unfortunate is that if the Congress had been true to its
pluralistic principles, it could have routed the Sena soon after
its formation. Instead, the party nurtured the Sena
surreptitiously in order to use its cadres to attack and undermine
the communist trade unions.
Over the years, fascism triumphed over communism - as it did in
Germany in the 1930s and '40s - and well-known communist and
socialist leaders of Maharashtra like S.A. Dange, Madhu Dandavate
and Mrinal Gore gradually lost their influence. The main gainer
was the Congress, for the Sena was destined to remain a minor
party. But the loser was the state, which earned a reputation for
intolerant sectarianism because of the Sena's depredations.
It was perhaps inevitable that the Congress' political
pusillanimity in the matter of countering the Sena's parochialism
would foster leaders who would be unable to evoke respect and
admiration. Chavan, therefore, is not an oddity, but the outcome
of a clear declining trend.
One of the first signs of this fall was the inadequacies which
Sudhakar Naik displayed as chief minister during the Mumbai riots
of December 1992 after the Babri masjid demolition. Despite pleas
from prominent citizens for firm steps against the lawless
elements, Naik remained a virtual helpless spectator of the
outbreak while the previously highly rated Mumbai Police disgraced
itself by its communal outlook, which can be directly ascribed to
the insidious influence of the Sena on the lower levels of the
Although the Congress, which lost power after the riots, regained
it in 1999 and has managed to hold on to it, the reason is not the
party's shining image, but the failures of the BJP and the Shiv
Sena (which split in 2006) to provide a credible alternative. But
neither Maharashtra nor Mumbai has been able to recover the kind
of prestige that they enjoyed in the middle of the last century.
While Kolkata has degenerated even more than Mumbai, it is cities
like Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai which have emerged as new
hubs of the corporate sector. New Delhi too is no longer the
sleepy, bureaucratic town it used to be.
Mumbai is still the country's financial capital and the home of
Bollywood. But it is living on borrowed time and past prestige.
While the underworld "dons" are no longer as active as before, it
is the political "dons" of the Shiv Sena and its offshoot, the
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which are the bane of those who come
into Mumbai from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere to earn a
And "rulers" like Chavan, who is mired in a housing society scam,
let the two Senas survive because they undercut each other during
(Amulya Ganguli is a political
analyst. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)