Targeting entrenched Gujaratis in Mumbai not easy, netas only venting frustration

Written By Unknown on Sabtu, 08 November 2014 | 22.23

MUMBAI: "Wanna take part in Swacha Bharat abhiyan n start from mumbai!! Wanna start cleaning up all the Marathi hating gujjus from there once for all."

With this infamous tweet earlier this week, first-time MLA Nitesh Rane not only exposed himself as a political novice with bad grammar, he also took the regressive, rabble-rousing route that Marathi netas have taken whenever it suited them.

But Gujaratis in Mumbai are scarcely like the impoverished south Indians migrants of a few decades ago or the north Indians now who can be beaten into submission. Gujaratis have been associated with Mumbai from the beginning, they form the backbone of trade and commerce in the city, speak Marathi and finance many Marathi politicians.

"I wouldn't take these comments against Gujaratis too seriously. This is posturing to retain Marathi constituencies," said Suhas Palshikar, political science professor at Savitribai Phule Pune University.

Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray had attacked Gujaratis in the past, but they were weak attacks. "Otherwise, the attacks were always on south Indians and later, north Indians."

Of late, the attacks have been coming faster. The coincidence with a significant election year cannot be dismissed. A few months ago, Sena mouthpiece Saamna slammed Gujaratis for being opportunists who made their money in Mumbai and left the "original residents" impoverished.

MNS's Raj Thackeray said Maharashtra's Gujaratis did nothing during the Marathwada quake.

Nitesh's father Narayan Rane, a senior Congress leader, recently cautioned against key institutions being shifted out of Mumbai.

Morarji Desai had tried to isolate Mumbai and connect it with Gujarat, and the new PM would do so too, he added.

"Gujaratis are attacked as they are largely a community of traders and money lenders under whom many Maharashtrians work. A similar phenomenon was seen in Europe from the 13th to the 20th century with Jews, who were also a trading community," said Vibhuti Patel, head of economics at SNDT University.

The grudge that Maharashtrians bear Gujaratis is an old one. "The Shiv Sena refused to call former PM Morarji Desai anything other than Moru. When Bal Thackeray was asked to comment on him during his funeral, he said: 'He lived to be 100. That's all'," said historian and senior journalist Aroon Tikekar.

But after Narendra Modi and the BJP's victories at the Centre and state, many believe politicians trying to play the Marathi manoos card are on a sticky wicket. "A new generation of Maharashtrians knows that it will have to compete in the modern economy to succeed in life. The Marathi manoos card will not work for them," said Tikekar.

Patel believes Maharashtra's neo middle-class wants more than vada pav and zunka bhakhar. "Maharashtrians have long prided themselves on a spartan lifestyle and looked down on the ostentatious Gujaratis. But with upward mobility, they want just that. The BJP, backed by large industrialists, promises just such a life," she added. Gujaratis in Mumbai,Swacha Bharat abhiyan

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