February 27, 2021
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Varun Gandhi is not the only one keeping the EC busy. Uddhav Thackeray proved that he has got "Thackri" in his DNA by using the term "hijra" to describe the PM. The Congress response? "We do not need to pay heed to the words of a party that pandered

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Poll Pointers

Like father...
For years, Shiv Sena leaders have revelled in using crude language, ungainly imitations, and sexist or below-the-belt slang to deride opposition leaders while campaigning. Led by none other than party chief Bal Thackeray, Shiv Sainiks were generous with foul language. They even coined a name for it - Thackri. Loosely translated from Marathi, it means Thackeray’s language. So Sonia Gandhi’s gait and Roman Catholic background was used to draw applause from lakhs gathered at party rallies, Sharad Pawar was labeled "a sack of potatoes" for his size, and so on. Part of the disenchantment of Shiv Sainiks with Thackeray’ son, and working president, Uddhav originated from his inability or unwillingness to employ crude imagery and language for opponents. He came across as sober and more dignified than his father, even when speaking from the dais. Sadly, that seems to be in the past. 

Keen to keep his flock together as well as emerge as the ultimate Sena leader, Uddhav has fallen back on yet another tried-and-tested formula that father used. And, he is paying for it. At a rally in Pune, he told the assembled that he had recently asked some people for their views on Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, and they had told him that he was an "ineffectual PM". Uddhav went a step ahead and used the term "hijra" to describe the PM. 

For his naiveté in the use of political language, he has BJP’s Varun Gandhi for company. For his choice of words, father Thackeray must be proud of son. For die-hard Sainiks, it showed that "Thackri" is in Uddhav’s DNA. For the Election Commission, it was reason enough to investigate and request filing a FIR for use of "objectionable language". For the Congress, it was an opportunity to hit back; said spokesperson Anant Gadgil in Pune: "We do not need to pay heed to the words of a party that pandered to Michael Jackson after calling him a hijra." 

The election akhada is just about warming up.

Don daddy v/s daughter
Remember Arun Gawli? He was the one-time dreaded don from the Marathi heartland of central Mumbai, lording over an empire of extortion and supari killings from Dagdi Chawl to challenge the might of the Dawood Ibrahim gang, externed from the city in the late 90s. Gawli returned to don a "respectable" avatar, came to called "Daddy" somewhat inappropriately by one and all, and start a political party called the Akhil Bharatiya Sena (ABS).

As it happened, Gawli fought the last assembly election in Maharashtra in 2004, and became a MLA. Police officials found it completely humiliating and incongruous to give him security while leading him to jail for various offences during the term. Then, his daughter Geeta fought the civic elections and became a corporator in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Gawli now has national ambitions; he wants to be in the Lok Sabha for "that is the place for true people’s representatives". But he stands nary a chance on his own. So guess which party he is wooing? The BSP. But chief Mayawati cut a mean deal; she demanded that he merge his ABS into her party. Gawli reportedly agreed and gave her a letter to that effect. As news leaked out, party workers – small time goons, local thugs, extortionists, middlemen in supari killings, et al – are furious that their identity would be over. They are up in arms against the merger. Daughter Geeta says she will look into the issue and prevent the merger, but it could jeopardize Gawli’s ticket to national politics. Daddy versus daughter, here.

Political clutter 
Posters, posters everywhere. Enough, declared the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and ordered its staff to pull down all illegal political posters, banners and cutouts from public places – road intersections, pavements, street corners, outside suburban railway stations and bus stops – across Mumbai. Concerned citizens had taken up the issue with the civic corporation in January itself, stating that the growing clutter was spoiling the cityscape, and politicians of all hues were indiscriminately using public spaces to advertise themselves, sometimes blocking traffic signals and signages in the process.

Pushed into action, the BMC declared that all posters, banners and cutouts at public places would be deemed illegal unless prior permission had been given. So, besides supplying water, clearing garbage, cleaning gutters, trapping rats, managing lakhs of patiens is public hospitals, the BMC deputed its staff to tear down such illegal self-advertisements. Till mid-March, they had brought down nearly 1850 items. The break-up: 428 political banners, 288 political boards, 454 posters, 115 cutouts and about 140 political flags.

Mumbai cityscape is indeed looking free of political clutter, but also strangely non-colourful at election time. The BMC, however, has a quaint dilemma; officers aren’t sure what to do with signboards that show housing colony layouts or local market layouts sponsored by some party leader or the other, with that person’s name, photo and party identification in bold. There are thousands such signages across Mumbai.

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