Frankly speaking the war over the ban on meat in Maharashtra is not just a matter of palate or choice, but is a political war with currents that run much deeper. In fact, the The controversy over the meat ban in Maharashtra, has less to do with Meat more to do with Modi. outrage against the ban has more to do with Narendra Modi as the PM, than the availability of chicken-koliwada on the streets of Mumbai.
Ever since, Modi has ascended to the top seat in Delhi, there has been much discomfort in Maharashtra, as to how to really deal with him. You see, for a very long time Chief Minister Modi of Gujarat was a big time rival of Maharashtra, and he made no bones of it. On a typical day, he would wean away the corporates with his Vibrant this and that, tom-tom ‘the 24 hours’ of power availability in state (as against load shedding in Maharashtra), or talk about how farmers are thriving in Gujarat (while committing suicide in Maharashtra). Since, there was a Congress Government all the while Modi ruled in neighbourly Gujarat, he invariably always attacked Maharashtra, to showcase how well Gujarat was doing. He was like the schoolboy who spoke most and shone brightest, while the rest sulked, especially Maharashtrians.
Historically too, Maharashtra and Gujarat were rivals for a long time (even though they did not really exist back then). There is an economic history behind it. The Britishers first established their ‘factory’ in Surat, which essentially was a trading place for Indian goods to be exchanged with those of the British. This made Gujarat (especially Surat) the financial hub. So much so, that when Shivaji was running short of money, he ransacked the city (then under Mughal domination) and made off with much booty. That was essentially the first clash, but it send the agenda for subsequent interactions. When Bombay came into being as a trading post, it were the Parsees from Gujarat that took the lead. When the state of Maharashtra was being created from Bombay Presidency, the Gujjus, especially Morarji Desai opposed it. He had even advocated creating Bombay as a union territory. The rivalry, so, is not really a new one.
In this conundrum comes Modi, chief minister of Gujarat and the chief tormentor. To add salt to the meat, Modi not only teased but also trumped in Maharashtra during the state elections. It was this result that was much disturbing for the rest of the politicians to digest, especially because BJP is essentially leaderless in the state after the death of Gopinath Munde. Yet, the fact that it could win impressively well in in the state elections, pricked all the rest. After all, here was a Gujju bhai that was always teasing the Marathi Bhau, and now he is even having them eat out of his hands was completely not acceptable. This made even its ally (Shiv Sena) and admirer (MNS) wary about how to deal with BJP in general and Modi in particular.
It is this feeling of animosity and angst that gets shaped in manner of attacks on the Gujarati community, which has a sizeable presence in Mumbai and wields much business power. A lot many of politicians portray Gujaratis as duplicitous who while thriving in Mumbai, still retain their allegiance to their heartland or their leaders. Given the economic prosperity of the Gujju Bhais, what with the diamond bourses and the stock markets, the real estate and the jewelry business, it is the jealousy that drives the feeling. Little wonder in this game of competitive madness, where you have a Rane scion (Congress) openly attacking Gujaratis through his scandalous tweets, it has become a free for all, wherein the all want to consolidate their Marathi vote-banks, be it Shiv Sena or MNS.
Also, it is an undeniable fact that Gujjus are markedly different from the Maharashtrians, they are typically vegetarians unlike our Maratha warriors, who are married to the Bombil and rawas. The diet is different just like so many things else. Thus, a meat ban or a liquor ban might be welcomed in Ahmedabad (and I am not even sure of that), it would spur a revolution in Maharashtra. This is the reason why any such measure or decision perturbs the Marathis, they construe it as a subjugation of culture by the moneyed-class Gujaratis. That is the reason why a similar ban last year by the same legislators was not an issue at all, like it is so now. It is more to do with son of the soil kind of feeling that anything else.
In the end, the matter is really all to do with Modi than meat or anything else. To avoid such unnecessary BJP needs to be all the more careful not to tread on toes. So, anything that can be easily imbued as imposition will immediately become fodder for the local politicos. What was good last year, or the year before, just might not be good anymore. Thus the government needs to be especially careful as going forth, the attacks are only going to increase, as political environment gets sullied.
Possibly, the Gujjus should rather take the dhokla-fafda route of imposition; feed everyone so much of it, that they become addicted to it. Banning anything would only backfire, especially in a state that is still coming to terms with its rival taking top seat. You see for all the outreach, Modi is still not such a nice name in Maharashtra politics…
(All the images used in this piece have been randomly downloaded from Web, no copyright owned or even suggested)