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Is BJP's Marathi film & beef ban move aimed to outsmart Sena?

Ahead of BMC polls, BJP is reminding Shiv Sena it is not the sole claimant of IPR for Marathi Manoos and Hindutva

Sanjay Jog  |  Mumbai 

In the run-up to the election to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), due in 2017, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is using the Marathi and Hindutva card to outsmart its junior partner Shiv Sena. Through the beef ban, protecting historical forts and monuments, revival of Marathi medium schools, and asking multiplexes to show Marathi films during prime time, the BJP is trying to remind its junior partner the latter is not the sole claimant for the cause of Marathi Manoos, Chhatrapati Shivaji and Hindutva.

It is also the BJP's systematic effort to outpace the Maharasthtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which is yet to recover from the party's rout in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The MNS, led by Raj Thackeray, had been involved in violent agitation against shopkeepers for not displaying their names in Marathi.

The BJP’s decision to seek the President’s assent on a long-pending Bill seeking to ban beef in Maharashtra caught the Sena unawares, and the latter had to defend the decision publicly and through the party's mouthpiece, Saamna.

Thereafter, BJP leader and education and cultural affairs minister Vinod Tawde took the initiative to prepare a plan for the restoration of forts and monuments in the state. He involved not only the Sena but also other allies and Opposition parties, too, to indicate the BJP is serious on the issue.

Thereafter, Tawde announced the government's commitment to go the extra mile and save Marathi medium schools run by the BJP-Sena ruled BMC in Mumbai and also in other districts. He did not forget to taunt that those making a pitch for the Marathi language should not send their children to English-medium schools.

Tawde also announced the government would make it mandatory for multiplexes to show Marathi films during prime time. The Sena and MNS had been engaged in agitation against multiplexes for not giving due importance to Marathi films.

The Sena supported Tawde's announcement, but got agitated over columnist Shobha De's tweet that “No more pop corn at multiplexes in Mumbai? Dahi misal and vada pav only. To go better with the Marathi movies at prime time.” Shiv Sena legislator Pratap Sarnaik on Wednesday moved a privilege motion in the state Assembly against De saying she insulted Marathi Manoos. Assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagde, a senior BJP leader, said due decision in this regard would be taken.

A BJP minister, who did not want to be named, admitted that the BJP had every reason to further lure Marathi Manoos and effectively play the Hindutva card. He told Business Standard: “The BJP has 30-plus corporators in the BMC. Therefore, BJP will certainly make all efforts to consolidate its position.”

However, Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said it’s not BJP versus Shiv Sena on these issues. “In fact, Shiv Sena has been pursuing the showing of Marathi films in multiplexes during prime time. Further, the party has resolved to save Marathi medium schools.”

Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee spokesman Ratnakar Mahajan took a swipe at both the BJP and the Sena saying, “The alliance government is not keen on addressing substantive issues and, therefore, trying to make political capital out of emotional issues. With regard to the showing of Marathi films during prime time, each regional language gets pride in every state but you cannot achieve it by making it compulsory.”

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First Published: Thu, April 09 2015. 00:26 IST