BY QUAID NAJMI
Mumbai, Oct 16 (IANS) As the Maharashtra Assembly election campaign cacophony climbs to a circus-like crescendo, many politicians resort to ‘no-holds-barred attacks on their rivals, on public platforms, leaving the audiences in splits, riled and speechless at the same time. A few highlights:
1. Early in the campaign, a supremely confident Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis grandly declared in a rally that the elections are little fun as there is no ‘pehalwan’ (strongman) to fight in the opposition.
Stung by this, Nationalist Congress Party’s 78-year hit back saying that ‘pehalwans’ fight only with equals, not with – and displayed what is interpreted as a lewd hand gesture hinting at a panzy.
Not one to let an opponent have the last word, the 49-year old Fadnavis retorted saying he could have appropriately responded to Pawar’s gesticulation, but was reining himself due to his rival’s advanced age…
“I will not resort to such ‘Natrang’ style tactics… It does not suit me,” Fadnavis declared grimly, with a velveted warning that the election results on Oct. 24 will prove who is the real ‘pehalwan’.
Incidentally, “Natrang” (2010) was a superhit Marathi film — based on the travails of Maharashtra’s dying breed of ‘Tamasha’ folk artistes — in which National Award winning actor Atul Kulkarni had portrayed the taboo-ish title role.
2. A few days ago, former union home minister and chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde casually remarked in Solapur that both allies — Congress-NCP — should merged as they are “tired and weary”.
While the NCP promptly denied any such plans, the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena pounced on them with Uddhav Thackeray asking: “Tired? Tired of what? Eating (implying, corruption)??”.
BJP leaders also exploited asking “what great things they (Congress-NCP) have done to make them ‘tired’ now”.
3. On one occasion, when NCP chief Pawar was being honoured with a massive garland at a public rally, an overzealous party leader standing behind popped his head uninvited, virtually emerging from Pawar’s armpit, to ensure his presence in the picture frame.
But, a visibly annoyed Pawar glared at the intruder and pushed the man’s head with his elbow, out of the photo-frame – but the moment was already recorded for posterity.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi took note of this at his rally and took a jibe at Pawar: “If this is how they treat their own party-men, imagine what will be your plight…!”
4. The angry young man of state politics, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray thundered at a rally in Thane the other day, attempting a shock treatment to the slumbering conscience of the electorate.
“You face so many problems… Why do you accept it so indifferently? I hate being the leader of such ‘dead-cold’ people… Wake up and vote for a change to protect your future,” he thundered, but the audience response seemed tepid.
5. At the other extreme, Vanchit Bahujan Samaj chief Prakash Ambedkar sternly admonished a gathering in Akola — “Why do you people still vote for them? What have they done for you…?”
6. And the cherry on the cake came when two former Mumbai Congress presidents were conspicuous by their absence at the maiden rally of senior party leader Rahul Gandhi in Maharashtra last week, setting political tongues wagging furiously
Nirupam cleared the air thus: “Speculations and suspicions about my absence in RG’s Mumbai rallies are meaningless. Due to an important family function I was very busy. Had informed him (Gandhi) in advance. He is my leader and he will be always my leader…”
Then came the unexpected googly: “But why was ‘Nikamma’ absent?”
This was the aggressive Nirupam’s direct and provocative reference to former union minister and his arch rival, the suave former city party chief Milind M. Deora, who had also skipped Gandhi’s rallies. Deora has not yet countered Nirupam’s allegations.
7. There is also the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) leader and MLA Hitendra V. Thakur in Palghar, who has barely slept a wink since the Sena fielded former Mumbai encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma against him in Nalasopara constituency.
In a letter to the Palghar Collector and Superintendent of Police, Thakur has expressed apprehensions that in order to implicate him in false cases, Sharma and his cohorts might hatch a conspiracy to incite violence or even injuring themselves.
He urged the authorities to provide “adequate security” to Sharma and his supporters to prevent them from indulging in such nefarious acts. The Shiv Sena has not yet reacted to this.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: [email protected])