Raj Thackeray, whose party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is aggressive on the issue of influx of outsiders — especially those from the Northern states — into Mumbai, on Sunday claimed that the mass transit system, which passes through Maharashtrian-dominated areas like Girgaum, would push up housing rates and ensure Marathi speakers cannot buy houses there.
Lashing out at the Shiv Sena and BJP for allegedly using their turf to divert public attention from shortcomings in Mumbai’s development, Raj held up MNS-ruled Nashik as a model of his vision for civic development. He however said that for this to be replicated in Mumbai, his party needed to be elected to power on its own strength.
Stating that the exodus from the MNS leadership, including that of former legislators, was due to “personal reasons,” Raj said the cadre and voters were with him and attributed his party’s defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly polls to the Narendra Modi wave.
Claiming that the Metro would push up the real-estate rates in its influence area, which would deprive Marathi-speakers of houses, Raj said this development would “destroy the Marathi manoos.” “Then, why do we need the Metro? For whom will it make things easier? For those who come from outside?” he asked.
“Why do we need an alternate mode (of transport) and for whom when we have the BEST and Railways? You are creating facilities for outsiders coming to Mumbai. Cities will become denser,” said Raj, adding that this migration to Mumbai would affect local residents.
“I am not somebody who will oppose development. But the agenda behind this development is dangerous. Perhaps the meaning of what I say will be not be understood today but a few years later you will be in agreement with me…if this does not help the local Marathi manoos, then why should I consider this to be development?” he questioned.
Pointing to his overtures towards estranged cousin and Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray for the BMC polls, Raj said this was to prevent outsiders from gaining an upper hand over Maharashtrians.
Raj however said that his definition of the term “Maharashtrian” did not include just those who were Marathis by birth but even those from outside the state who had assimilated with local culture. He added that those migrants who had not done so would not even be averse to breaking Mumbai from Maharashtra.
Raj said he could develop Mumbai on lines of Nashik if the MNS got “complete power.” “Just electing (MNS) corporators will not help,” said Raj, adding that the MNS had played the role of an opposition party to its hilt with two of its corporators even going to jail after protesting the poor state of roads in Mumbai. He claimed that the Shiv Sena-ruled BMC had ensured that MNS corporators had been given lesser funds.
Lauding the vision of the British who had developed town planning schemes, the CST station and storm water drainage in the island city, Raj lamented that the Marathi speakers did not harbour a strong sense of culture unlike the people from southern states.