Practically all Maharashtra politicians are in the habit of speaking of the great legacy of the state, and their speeches are seldom complete without mentioning the names of progressive personalities like Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and of course Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
The state is no doubt privileged in that several eminent personalities from various walks of life have been born here, and residents of the state have the right to be proud of them. However, these personalities need to be emulated, instead of merely having their names cited.
Numerous political personalities as well as social reformers from Maharashtra have also left their mark on state and national politics. One such personality is the late Annabhau Sathe, a Dalit writer and a communist. Mr Sathe was born in an extremely poor Dalit family and was deprived of school education due to his ‘low’ caste, coupled with poverty. When he migrated to Mumbai from his village in Satara district, he stayed at the Labour Camp in Matunga, which had a large concentration of members of the Communist Party of India. The result of his interaction with the Communists was that he became aware of and sensitive to the problems of the underprivileged people, he himself being one of them. He also joined the study circle in the area, where he learnt to read and write. Soon he started writing poems, ballads, novels and even stories for films. His writing threw light on the situation of the poor and the backward classes in the country.
On September 14, a statue and a portrait in oils of Mr Sathe were unveiled in Moscow by Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. It is ironic that Mr Fadnavis should unveil the statue and painting when his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), cannot see eye to eye with the Communists and the erstwhile Socialist Party, both close to Mr Sathe’s heart. It is indeed laudable that Mr Fadnavis has risen above political ideology to commemorate Mr Sathe, but he should not stop at that. Being in power in Maharashtra, he should strive to improve the situation of the underprivileged and those belonging to the backward classes in the state.
Mr Sathe’s entire literary work is noteworthy and among his best is his poem Majhi Maina Gavavar Rahili, which depicts how a man, who migrated to Mumbai in search of work due to poverty, feels while leaving his wife behind. Like all his other works, the work displays Mr Sathe’s command over Marathi and his respect for women, and reflects the dreams the poor carry while migrating to urban areas in search of jobs.
Lakhs of youth in Maharashtra and the country are searching for jobs; however, those in rural areas cannot migrate to urban areas for work, as the situation is no better there. Today’s young rural Maharashtrians cannot promise their wives all the luxuries that the character in Majhi Maina Gavavar Rahili promised his wife, while migrating from the village.
The Opposition in the state is blaming the Eknath Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena and the BJP, for the government’s failure to get the Vedant-Foxconn project set up in the state. The project, which has now gone to Gujarat, would have created jobs in Maharashtra if it had been set up here.
Three days after Fadnavis unveiled Sathe’s statue in Moscow, a farmer committed suicide in Maharashtra, blaming Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his failure to give the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to the farmers and making farming un-lucrative. On September 21, two land-owners in Jawhar taluka were reported to have made a tribal mortgage his two daughters in lieu of Rs 12,000 and a sheep. The same day another report appeared that two tribal girls had been rescued from bonded labour. It would however be unfair to say that this happens only during the rule of the current government; such incidents have occurred in the state during the tenure of other governments too.
While people in the state continue to face various problems, the ruling Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena and the Thackeray faction of the party are engaged in a war of words, with the BJP adding to it as a supporter of Mr Shinde.
Leaders of these parties have been threatening the rivals with violence, with one leader saying that he would pull the guts out of Thackeray faction Shiv Sainiks. This is a classic example of how people threaten violence or take to it when ideas and ideals fail. The Shinde faction has also started attacking the Thackeray family and their residence, Matoshri, a symbol of power for the party. In the initial stage of their rebellion, the leaders had refrained from such an attack.
Mr Shinde on his part was busy taking Ganapati darshan at public celebrations and at residences of his supporters. With the Ganesh Chaturthi festival over, he is now busy meeting Shiv Sena leaders and members to garner more support for his faction, in the hope that it will help in the legal battle for taking over the party.
When the Congress was in power in the state, the BJP had run a campaign with hoardings across the state highlighting the issues in the state and asking the Congress “Kuthe neun thevla aahe mazha Maharashtra?” (Where have you taken my Maharashtra?) This was to indicate that the state was going to the dogs.
It is time to ask the same question to the BJP and to Mr Shinde.
The author is a senior journalist and media trainer. He tweets at @a_mokashi