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Mumbai's red herring; and a comment - The Times of India

Editorial ()
21 February 1997

Title : Mumbai's red herring; and a comment
Author : Editorial
Publication : The Times of India
Date : February 21, 1997

Perhaps it is no accident that the controversy over the Centre's
alleged decision to restore the old name of Maharashtra's capital,
Bombay, should have been re-kindled on the eve of the Brihanmumbai
municipal corporation (BMC) elections. It has been speculated in
the state's political circles that the rumour was put into
circulation in the hope that this emotive issue would stir up
public feeling and divert attention from the fact that neither the
BJP-Shiv Sena state government nor Mr Bal Thackeray have shown
themselves in a particularly advantageous light over the last few
weeks. Public opinion on the contentious renaming issue has been
divided between those who uphold local sentiment on the one hand,
and those who believe that the renaming has cost Mumbai its
international brand equity on the other. Neither side has provided
any but the most well-rehearsed arguments in the last few days, and
with good reason: there is nothing new to be said about the
renaming, which is a fait accompli. What is politically
significant, however, is that Mr Thackeray has persisted in using
the issue against the "Hindustani Britons" who rule India - despite
the fact that an official of the Union home ministry has denied the
rumour. This rhetoric, fortunately, has begun to pall even among
his traditional Maharashtrian support base.

His pronouncements also demonstrate that Mr Thackeray is himself
the worst enemy of the 'Yuti Sarkar', the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition
that rules Maharashtra. For Mr Thackeray's editorial in the Shiv
Sena organ, Saamna, on Wednesday, is entirely at variance with the
economic trajectory that the 'Yuti Sarkar' has proposed for the
state. The Sena supremo presents a theatrical vision of apocalypse,
asserting that the Central government "will convert India into the
East India Company once again to attract the American and British
traders and their capital." He has, apparently, forgotten that his
own associates, Mr Manohar Joshi and Mr Gopinath Munde, have lent
their aegis to the 'Advantage Maharashtra' conference, to which
potential investors have been invited from around the world. The
truth is that the cosmetic renaming controversy helps obscure the
more urgent issues that confront Mumbai, which is today a city that
has lost its sense of direction. Although Maharashtra is one of
India's most industrially advanced states, its capital is hamstrung
by an inept local leadership whose lack of vision in civic matters
and inattention to infrastructural development is legendary. With
its 19th-century engines of progress, the textile mills, having
collapsed, Mumbai must swiftly re-position its economic profile to
attract such cutting-edge forms of entrepreneurship and enterprise
as software engineering and global banking. If Mumbai is to be
re-fashioned on the Hong Kong model, it must first provide for a
self-sustaining, internationally credible infrastructure. In plain
words, it is time Mumbai's champions got real about their
priorities and realised that it is hard-headed pragmatism, not
empty rhetoric, which will save the city.


When East India Company came here they forced us to accept their
terms. In case of the 'Advantage Maharashtra' programme being
organised by the Shiv Sena-BJP government, the terms are being set
by the people of this country.

Re the comment "it is time Mumbai's champions get real about their
priorities..." Have the champions of Bombay been real about their
priorities? Until two years ago, it was they who were guiding the
destiny of this city. What did they do to alievate the problems
that this editorial is highlighting? Unless of course, it is their
contention that things were fine until then and the deterioration
started only two years ago. :-)

When people make it a point of seeing bad in any situation, then
they have to put on their illogical hat and so show their
intellecutal bankruptcy.

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