Sunday, April 20, 2008

Editorial II

Fence sitters no more
When rulers and detractors agree

Maharashtra’s politics is taking an ominous turn. Though the ruling parties in the state publicly condemned the recent anti-migrant agitation launched by MNS chief Raj Thackeray, the latter’s views are now being cautiously agreed on by the same quarters.

The ongoing Budget Session of the State Legislature has been a study on the migrants debate receiving guarded but official sanction across all party lines. The Shiv Sena has, in as many as five different discussions on housing, employment, infrastructure, Belgaum and crime in this Session alone, boldly called for ‘outsiders’ entry to be stopped in Mumbai.

Previously, the ruling parties vociferously opposed such unconstitutional statements, most of which came from the Shiv Sena. But lately, there has been subtle agreement from as many as three major state politicians – CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, deputy CM R R Patil and Finance Minister Jayant Patil. While Deshmukh said that there were “ways to stop migrants” from coming to Mumbai, he added that post-2000 slums would never be regularised - a clear message that migrants could make living arrangements or stay out of Mumbai. R R revealed a statistical finding in the Legislative Assembly that migration and crime rates in Mumbai had both risen in five years. Finance Minister stated that people from other states should come to Mumbai to be productive, not just fill the city’s slums.

While saying the same things but in a different manner as the hardliner MNS and SS, the ruling combine is officially, and for the first time, blaming some of Mumbai’s chronic troubles on migrants – who, they say, tax the city’s resources, create slums wherever possible and add to law and order problems. Interestingly, every important discussion in this Session has taken this view at some point, but ministers have carefully balanced their rhetoric by saying that everybody is welcome to Mumbai. The state’s understated acknowledgment of the burden of running Mumbai has so far just stopping short of blaming migrants for leaving lesser opportunities for the locals.

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