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An open letter to Raj Thackeray

By Mahesh Vijapurkar
Last updated on: November 12, 2009 11:19 IST
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My dear Raj Thackeray

It is possible that you are smiling after patting the backs of your newly elected MLAs in the Maharashtra legislative assembly for their deeds on Monday during the oath-taking ceremony.

You may be under the impression that you have further polarised the state on the issue of Marathi and the pride attendant to it.

Further, you may also be smirking that you have exposed your cousin's party as incapable of advocating the cause of the Marathi manoos.

If you did all that, it would be true to form. However, you have done unspeakable damage to legislative norms. The legislature, to which your MLAs were elected, is an entirely different arena than what they are usually accustomed -- the streets.

The idioms of the two are entirely different, as different as chalk is from cheese. But if you are going to foster fear among legislators by strong-arm tactics such as was evident, then you are wrong on two counts.

One, you are imitating the unsavoury conduct of legislators in Uttar Pradesh where flinging slippers, wrenching mikes etc are established patterns of discourse. You wouldn't like to be imitating them, would you?

Second, the legislature is armed with powers to protect itself beyond the ordinary purview of the judiciary, and when the other parties band together -- as surely they will against you -- there is little headway your guys can make. All your plans of using the legislature to foster your ideology will come to naught.

Take the events after the ruckus. Your four MLAs cannot discharge their Constitutional functions because they have been pushed out of the legislature. I have my doubts about the legitimacy of some of the steps:

1. Those who had not taken the oath, and therefore not fully MLAs, being suspended and

2. Those who did not take the oath themselves banded together to send your men out of its domain.

The legislature was yet to be fully constituted as on Monday -- the misguided, violent things happened during the constitution of the House; the procedure was still on.

Of course, your party will seek legal opinion and seek the intervention of the courts to have the four-year suspensions lifted, but precious time will be lost when the rounds of the courts are done. That was not why you strove hard to get them elected, so that they could cool their heels outside.

Unless, of course, you clearly misunderstood the dimensions of legislative democracy and politics. If that should be the case, please start learning anew.

That should tell you that you need to bend and use the platform more carefully. While the might of logic is diminished, I admit, it is certainly no place for muscle. The platform is just not designed for the kind of agenda or action where you can rough up people who think contrary to your ideas.

Therefore, the best you can do is to cease and desist from such notions of the superiority of muscle power and ask your MLAs to use their heads.

Remember, Raj, that the legislature has a code of conduct and a set procedure -- never mind that flawed, hot-headed politicians have breached that every now and then -- where discussion and persuasion, and thereafter decisions by majority vote, is the requirement. Yes, sometimes the best of ideas can be killed by the tyranny of numbers, but that cannot be helped.

It is a place to debate, and not an akhada. However justified your cause, if you cannot persuade others to fall in line with you by arguments, then there is something lacking in you. He who raises a voice, or a hand, is one who cannot be a good persuader.

A legislature is the best example of pluralism of thought, far away from the harsh realities of the streets. By transporting the mindset of the street to the legislature, you are causing dreadful harm to the democratic processes where debate is the vital input to decision-making.

Your militia can rampage outside the legislature, but it can, and will, be thwarted entry into the legislature. You cannot carry your grudges on any aspect of life in Maharashtra there in the fashion your men have done.

If you try to convert the legislative assembly into a theatre of the absurd and the violent, rest assured that two things would most certainly happen.

One is that you would not succeed because your language of violence would not be heard, but your entire effort will turn into a one-sided dialogue of the deaf. Your party would be isolated and your MLAs lose their constituencies for there is little they could do to serve them.

Two, your agenda, legitimate or otherwise, but nevertheless yours, would be stymied and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena reduced to a joke of having to battle on the streets when it gained entry into the portals of legislative politics.

I suggest you take a break and put on your thinking hat, gather well-meaning people around you for counsel and adopt better practices. It does not mean you have to abandon your passion for Marathi. It is just that there are better ways of doing so.

Mahesh Vijapurkar

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Mahesh Vijapurkar