Sometimes, when you are made Chief Minister of a large and important state like Maharashtra without prior experience of having been even a junior Minister, the inexperience shows in your actions.
Is this what happened with our Nagpurian young C.M. Devendra when he tried to resolve the ADHM – MNS imbroglio over release of Karan Johar’s film while also trying to send a political message to ally Shiv Sena that it had other ‘options’ to contest BMC elections with ? While trying to thus kill two birds with one stone, has he damaged himself?
It is clear now that the step to intervene and have Raj Thakeray and Johar meet at his official residence was not a well thought out one and done without much consultation with party seniors in Delhi.
After the all round criticism in the media, specially the Print media, and denouncements by opposition leaders, senior BJP Ministers in Delhi have one by one distanced themselves from the contentious ‘donation’ issue.
Quick on the heels of Defense Minister Parrikar stating clearly that the Indian Army does not want or need donations extorted by ‘holding someone’s neck’ Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkiah Naidu too said yesterday that the government does not subscribe to the “wrong proposal” of MNS leader Raj Thackeray asking filmmakers to donate Rs 5 crore to the army for casting Pakistani actors.
“That is a wrong proposal and we don’t agree to it. The Maharashtra Chief Minister has also clarified that he was not part of the proposal,” Naidu told media persons on the sidelines of a CII conference on media and entertainment industry.
Though Naidu tried his best to shield Devendra Fadnavis from further attacks, by opposition parties and media on this subject many in the film industry too are not buying it. If the CM was not ‘part of the deal’ why and how did he allow it to happen at his residence, in his presence?
When he had to face a lot of criticism from even Twitterati, of which Devendra is a keen follower, he came out with some lame explanations in an interview with daily Indian Express.
After asking if talks could be held with Hurriyat why not MNS he added “at the meeting, it was producer Karan Johar who expressed his desire to make a contribution of Rs 5 crore towards the welfare of the families of the martyred soldiers. To which I categorically said there should be no such compulsion. Yet, if you want to show your deshbhakti, there is the Army welfare relief fund where you can help.” (Why should Karan have to ‘prove’ or show his deshbhakti to anyone? He cast the Pakistani actor in his movie before all the action happened on the Indo-Pak borders and when many other producers were doing it too?)
Much awarded actor Shabana Azmi said she did not believe for one moment that the donation was made voluntarily. She had slammed Fadnavis in her tweet the day after his mediation The veteran actor had written, “What a sorry state of affairs!CM brokers deal n buys patriotism for 5 crores!After Home minister had promised peaceful passage 4 #ADHM.”
She followed up the tweet by expressing herself clearly in an interview with NDTV’s Barkha Datt yesterday. She accused the BJP of always indulging in ‘double speak’.
“Who is Raj Thackarey to put a price of Rs. 5 crores on anyone’s patriotism? Who is he to insist that the Indian flag be put before the film? He doesn’t follow the Constitution of India, we do. Whose patriotism needs to be questioned?”
Shabana accused the CM of colluding with MNS for electoral gains and setting dangerous precedents in the process.
“Why did he have to have any negotiations when the Home Minister had made it clear that no law and order problem would be tolerated during release of the film?” She asked, specifying that this was the ‘double speak’ that she found so dangerous.
The interesting question now is – After Parrikar’s and Army’s clear NO to receiving funds in such conditions from Karan Johar and BJP seniors too flaying the proposal what will happen to the ‘deal’? Without the 5 crore Army donation, how can Raj ‘allow’ screening of Ae Dil hai Mushkil in two days?
NT has a humble suggestion. K Jo should declare that he will make the donation to the Welfare fund of the many extras and junior artists who work in Bollywood and he should challenge Raj Thakarey’s party MNS to match the donation to “prove his commitment to Mumbai and its film industry”! Mumbai is the place where he and his party have flourished, isn’t it?
… Sunita Mudaliar Associate Editor