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Sena demands lion’s share of Mumbai job pie for Marathis

Mumbai, June 8: Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Malshikar has announced an August 30 deadline for all multinationals, Indian business institutions, shopping malls and restaurants here to reserve 90 per cent jobs for “native Maharashtrians”, threatening what is left of Bombay in Mumbai.

That the Sena means business is clear from what another leader, Shishir Shinde, did to the Shopper’s Stop mall and McDonald’s restaurant at Mulund last Wednesday.

Shinde stormed the shopping mall with 350 sainiks, who first shattered the glass panes with stones. Once inside, they threatened the staff and ransacked its plush furniture, demanding more jobs for Maharashtrians. Though Shopper’s Stop authorities pleaded that 30 per cent of their employees were Marathis and they were looking to increase the ratio, the sainiks were not deterred.

“These people have to be taught a lesson. They seem to have an allergy against the Marathi population,” Shinde said. Like Shinde, many within the Sena are certain of a conspiracy to “throw the Marathi” out of his own habitat. “We are just fighting for the lot of our people. We will not stop until justice is done to the natives who have been marginalised in their own land,” the leader added.

If Shinde is to be believed, the arm-twisting seems to have borne fruit. He said multinationals have agreed to hire more Maharashtrians and, after August 30, the results will show. Multiplexes, he said, have promised that most of the staff at ticket counters would be Maharashtrians.

In a news conference on Friday, Sena chief Bal Thackeray tacitly justified the use of violence for the Maharashtrian cause. Thackeray said the violence at Shopper’s Stop was “neither a stunt nor an election issue”.

These incidents follow the raid on a railway examination centre and sainiks barging into the house of playwright Alyque Padamsee and warning him not to make “anti-Maharashtrian” statements. They also asked him to stop referring to the city as “Bombay”.

But if one section of the Sena cadre has been going all out on a son-of-the-soil drive, the other faction has remained notably muted in its campaigns — a reflection of the diverse tactics of its two leaders, Uddhav and Raj Thackeray.

While Uddhav, anointed Thackeray’s successor, has been trying to broaden his party’s base in the country and talking about a “mee Mumbaikar (I am a Mumbaikar)” campaign, Raj has become insular. Even as Uddhav speaks of a Mumbai for everyone who came before 1995, Raj says Maharashtrians will have to be given preference over everyone else. While one group talks about stopping the influx of refugees, the other wants to throw out non-Maharashtrians and boycott labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

“It is difficult to say who has the upper hand,” said a Sena insider. “But Shishir Shinde is supposed to belong to Raj Thackeray’s camp and Balasaheb has not criticised Shinde till now.”

He added that both the Sena cadre and Maharashtrians are unsure of what the Sena is trying to achieve. “Of course, election is there on everybody’s mind but nobody can deny that the Sena cadre doesn’t know whose bugle to blow,” he said.

“The renewed activism of Sena leaders like Shinde and Malshikar may pay dividends at the local level if handled imaginatively, but we have to forget about expanding our political base,” the leader added. “There is an urgent need for consensus.”

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