By Sourabh Harihar:
The assembly pollsÂ justÂ got over in Maharashtra, and this video has been doing rounds on my news feed for quite a while now: Raj Thackerey on Aesthetic Vision – The Key to Progress. There are things that strike as refreshingly good about the video while a few fallacies are also quite evident.
As the name suggests, the video expounds the MNS chief’s idea of aesthetic vision, which, according to him, could propel Maharashtra to a brighter future and purge it of all its current problems. To start with, it’s a fairly good end to think of achieving, albeit a bit too idealistic. In a surprising departure from convention, there is hardly a political tone to the video. However, this is not to say that the otherwise agressive leader has decided to go soft this time round. On the contrary, he is brazenly frank in pointing out that the present situation of the state is the doing of the people of the state. In extremely lucid terms, he explains how certain responsibilities are meant for the people to take and how governments cannot do much beyond a point. This may sound too submissive for an aspiring politician of his kind, but it is nevertheless true. Hitting the right note, the speech emphasizes that people of a state are as much a stakeholder in its development as is the government. It is the people’s attitude and their sense of beauty (as he crudely puts it) that eventually determines the progress of a state. The bits about our pathetic record on community hygiene whilst being extremely meticulous about personal hygiene ring very true. Also, the last section where he draws attention to the dire state of our healthcare, bureaucracy and education infrastructure is quite moving. It is not as if these things aren’t known to us, but the way they are addressed in the video helps capture the imagination of the listener. And coming from someone who is usually known for making mostly acerbic and offensive talk, this heartrending sixteen-minute talkathon seems like a welcome transformation.
Whilst heaping praise on the one-off genuinely well-intentioned talks to have come from the leader, one has to note that a few arguments sound quite banal. The very connection he draws between an aesthetic outlook and progress seems far too oversimplified in a state like Maharashtra. There is much more to the present situation than the lack of an aesthetic vision. Firstly, there is a state economy that remains largely concentrated in its few urban pockets while much of its rural revenue-base continues to be neglected. Secondly, the state’s once-booming cities are today reeling under severe infrastructure crises, in which the growth of cities isn’t quite catching up with the rise in populations. This is bound to put pressure on existing systems, be it dwellings (slums), transportation, or even sewage. Under the current status, it is nearly impossible to imagine things to be working drastically better than they actually are. At many points in the video, examples from other countries are shown as ideals that could be replicated in the state. But while talking about the positives, Thackerey overlooks several other aspects that are linked with the progress of those countries, for example trade, economic policy or a favourable population curve. It also worth noting that most countries he mentions were already highly industrialized (e.g., Western Europe and Japan) while India (and consequently Maharashtra) was taking its baby steps towards modernization. This, of course, does not take away his basic point about changing attitudes and outlooks in our society, but had he also considered these self-evident facts, his arguments could have come across more convincingly.
Despite the shortcomings though, it is heartening to see the video and hear Thackerey talk without his quintessential barbs and ridicules. More importantly, it would be hard for anybody in Maharashtra or India to disagree with what he has presented through the video. There’s little he has done before in terms of speech or commentary that would deserve the same description.