The Raj Thackeray show: Uddhav, toll charges and fireworks

Satyanarayan Iyer Mumbai | Updated on April 04, 2014

A file photo of MNS chief Raj Thackeray addressing an election rally in Pune on Monday.   -  PTI

A gathering of about 20,000 men and women wait anxiously for over an hour and a half at one of Mumbai’s satellite towns, as smaller leaders of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena come to the podium and address them.

At 20.20 hours, Raj Thackeray arrives and all hell breaks loose off stage and on it. And the firework (that goes on for the next 45 minutes) begins. 

Earlier that Wednesday evening, party members and Raju Patil, the candidate from Dombivili-Kalyan spoke, but the crowd did not seem to tune in as the leaders nit-picked their opponents. After a hard day’s work, the crowd had gathered to listen to the one they considered as among Maharashtra’s most charismatic orators – Raj was their showstopper. 

At the slightest rumour, accentuated everytime the dhols were played by the small band parked outside, the crowds would stand and look around in anticipation, much to the discomfiture of the speakers on the podium. They, however, braved the crowd’s disinterest and battled on. 

But Raj did arrive in his blue Land Cruiser. The bored crowd erupted and started waving the party flag, and speakers on the ground blared out a well known Marathi movie song dedicated to King Shivaji. 

Even as Raj came onto the podium, all eyes seemed to visibly seek him out and the muddle lasted a few minutes. Possibly sensing the crowd’s anticipation, the anchor rushed through with his remaining announcements. 

Finally Raj, dressed in a cream kurta-pyjama, took the slightly-raised platform and the show got on the road. And Raj did not disappoint. 

In his classic style, he said, “I launched the campaign two-days ago in Pune and there I spoke everything. Every day there is nothing new to speak, so I do not speak often.” 

“People will also get bored of seeing the same face every day and hearing the same old things,” he added, and the crowd applauded, as if soaking in every word. 

Before long, he plunged into the on-going family feud in the Thackeray household and tore into cousin Uddhav for being “two-faced.” Challenging him to counter his words, he told the crowd, “This question-answer session will continue for the remaining part of the election season.” 

When the crowd applauded again, as Raj began narrating a tale from his uncle’s last few days, he stopped them saying, “there is nothing to clap in this,” and the crowd promptly fell silent. 

And the silence punctuated Raj’s 36-minute fiery speech, where he raised issues like corruption, crony capitalism and the unjust levy of toll charges in the State. So stunning was the silence, that at times when he stopped to catch his breath, the stillness was all pervading. 

Reminiscent of his uncle Bal Thackeray, Raj mimicked leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal and called Republican Party of India’s chief Ramdas Athavale as Maharashtra’s Laloo Prasad Yadav, leaving the crowd in splits. 

Suddenly, as if a thought just struck him, Raj called out the aspiring candidate and thundered, “Raju, aapli jheenk nishchit aahe. (Our victory is assured.)” And the overwhelming presence of women in the crowd was the basis of his prediction, he said, as he brought the show to an end, endorsing the local MNS candidate.

Published on April 04, 2014

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