February 24, 2020
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A New Cue From The Tiger's Den

A New Cue From The Tiger's Den
Is the former world billiards champion Michael Ferreira flirting with the Shiv Sena? Stranger deals have been struck. But Mumbai’s tiny Goan Catholic community is aghast with reports that one of their icons is on the verge of being signed on by a party best known for its rabid attacks on minorities. An ironic move, considering the only dealings the party’s had with the Christian community in the past has been through its mobs. Over the last decade, the Sena thugs have launched violent attacks on missionary schools and Catholic priests in the city, ostensibly to push for the rights of the Marathi manoos. So, when the party’s new face, Uddhav Thackeray, the Sena chief’s son, began wooing the community through his Mee Mumbaikar campaign, few thought he’d be taken seriously.

Consider the astonishment then when Ferreira himself turned up at Bal Thackeray’s door recently. The billiards champ was part of a delegation of Goan Catholics in Mumbai that met the Sena chief, asking him to lobby for their demands. These include the refurbishment of a 16th century church in the city and greater building rights in the community’s traditional villages or gaothans. When asked whether he’s joining the party, Ferreira stuck to a non-committal line—"I have an open mind on a range of issues and this could be one of them." But he’s virtually endorsed the party’s thinly-veiled anti-immigrants campaign: "If this influx can be stopped, provided the means are civilised, I don’t really see anything wrong with it."

Meanwhile, the Catholic church has, in an official statement, asked the Sena to stay off and not meddle in its affairs. It has also been severely critical of Ferreira for playing into the hands of Thackeray. But the former champion has hardly concealed his desire to join politics and become a Rajya Sabha member. And that, perhaps, is the bait the Sena is dangling for the billiards man to bite. If maverick journalist Pritish Nandy and Videocon chief R.N. Dhoot were drawn to the trophy, why not Ferreira?

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