Why Manohar Parrikar's criticism of MNS demanding Rs 5-crore is a sham

The Defence Minister doesn't approve of MNS extorting money in the name of Army

Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday launched a veiled attack on Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, saying donations to the army are voluntary and forcing someone to cough up money will not be appreciated. He said:”The concept is voluntary donation and not catching neck of someone. We don’t appreciate it.”

This comes after MNS was able to cause enough trouble for Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, almost stalling its release and then making a demand of Rs 5 crore towards Army fund.

It’s interesting to note that the criticism comes from Parrikar, who has himself gone to town glorifying the government’s role and “the role of his RSS background” in Indian Army’s surgical strikes on Pakistan terror launchpads. This shows that even within the right-wing there is differences on how much you can milk the nationalistic fervour of army’s achievement in your daily political activities.

Parrikar’s statement followed a serious backlash Thackeray received from the Army asking for money in its name. Similarly, Parrikar’s Hanuman comment didn’t go down too well army veterans.  Army, a known apolitical unit of India, doesn’t like to dragged into politics.

The defence minister, who has been hogging all the limelight on the surgical strike issue should have spoken against MNS the moment the party tried to appropriate the issue.

The issue of nationalism features prominently on the agenda of both MNS and the BJP. When a smaller party tries to eat into the pie of political issues of the bigger party there rises an squirmish on the real claim on the issue. This also results in a catch 22 situation for the bigger party as it cannot be seen opposing the excesses of the smaller party  for it also stands for the same ideals. Thus, a meeting between Raj Thackeray and Devendra Fadnavis calling for truce and a respectable exit from the inferno that the whole Ae Dil Hai Mushkil release was becoming.

At the end of the day where do we draw the line when it comes to political misuse of the Army’s achievements. Using it in election rallies and gloating about it public speeches with reference to the government or using the Army’s sacrifice to extort money from filmmakers who cast Pakistani actors, not able to pre-empt the consequences of such cultural exchanges –  aren’t too different.

Politicisation of the Army’s achievements comes in different hues and sizes in which all political stakeholders want their pound of flesh. A Raj Thackeray would never have been able to hold a democratic society to ransom had the Defence Minister acted when the MNS issued a 48-hour deadline to Pakistani actors and threatened to physically assault Karan Johar. His statement criticising MNS after the whole controversy has been contained following an emotional appeal by Johar and many behind the scene-political parleys has no real value.