Weak on-ground MNS leadership, police action behind failure of loudspeaker agitation
The police department’s proactive action of asking Muslim clerics not to broadcast the morning azaan on loudspeakers and also to lower the decibel, put MNS on a backfoot
Mumbai It has been over two days and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’s (MNS) agitation against loudspeakers on mosques has failed to evoke an enthusiastic response from citizens and MNS workers.
Political analysts and MNS insiders said that in addition to the little enthusiasm among people, deft handling of the situation by the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government and a weak on-ground MNS organisation, seem to be the reasons behind the failure.
Additionally, the police department’s proactive action of asking Muslim clerics not to broadcast the morning azaan on loudspeakers and also to lower the decibel, put MNS on a backfoot.
“To begin with, the issue didn’t click with the public. There was no enthusiasm among people, especially Maharashtrian Hindus, who were our target audience. Compared to the support to our agitation against North Indians, this one didn’t see much support,” admitted a senior MNS leader. He further pointed out that a weak party organisation and the absence of a solid second-rung leadership, was another reason behind the fiasco.
“Ideally, our top leaders should have been the ones chanting Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques, but they were confined to their homes or at Shivtirth (Raj Thackeray’s new residence),” said the leader who refused to come on record. He added that there was no direction from any quarter. “We had no backup plan like who would bail us out if we were arrested,” he added.
The leader further said that the MNS general secretary Sandeep Deshpande’s attempt to run away was childish. “What was the need to run away and that too from outside Rajsaheb’s house, where the whole media was present? He would have become a hero if he let the police arrest him. The fact that a female officer was injured because of it, has backfired on the party,” he stated.
However, the MNS put up a brave front and said their campaign has succeeded. “We were asking for the implementation of the SC guidelines and succeeded in our attempt. The decibel levels have reduced considerably due to our campaign,” said MNS leader Shalini Thackeray.
“Some people are trying to mislead Hindus on Kakad aartis. In this virtual age, these aartis are all shown online,” she added. She clarified that MNS did not come on the streets as it did not want to create a riot-like situation.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra home minister Dilip Walse Patil said, “There is a systematic attempt to destabilise the state. Nobody can give an ultimatum to the government. Such dictatorship cannot be tolerated. There are set guidelines chalked out for the use of the loudspeaker at religious places as per the Supreme court order in 2005.” He credited Hindus and Muslims for cooperating to ensure peace across the state.
Also, the agitation backfired as a large section of Maharashtrians were unhappy when they realised that these rules also apply to Hindu religious places, especially Shirdi Sai Baba temple and Vitthal Rakhumai temple at Pandharpur. This would affect the broadcast of Kakad aarti (dawn prayers), which takes place from 4:30 am. These aartis are very popular among Maharashtrians, as devotees tend to arrive before dawn to witness the rituals.
Anand Dave, president of Hindu Mahasangh, which espouses the case of Hindu community, said, “We have warned right from the beginning that this SC order will hurt Hindus more than Muslims.”
“We are used to hearing azaan for decades, but now this issue has taken a different turn. Our kakad aartis, as well as various festivities like Ganeshotava and Navratri, will face the music,” he added.
Political analyst Hemant Desai said that this situation is unlike the 2008 agitation when Raj became hugely popular riding on his anti-migrant issue. “In 2008, the then Congress chief minister Ashok Chavan gave a free hand to run his campaign to cut Shiv Sena-BJP to size. This paid huge dividends in the 2009 elections and Congress-NCP were able to win the parliamentary and assembly polls. However, this time, his cousin Uddhav Thackeray, spared no efforts to puncture his campaign,” said Desai.