Bal Thackeray is an angry old man. He has been out of power for more than 7 years in Maharastra, his party is in disarray, his trusted lieutenants have left him, his own nephew revolted against his authority. And he just turned 80. Shekhar Gupta of Indian Express interviewed him on this occasion on his program Walk the Talk. Bal Thackeray expresses his admiration for Hitler (he was an artist), Saddam Hussein (he killed only his own people), benevolent dictatorship (go figure), emergency (it was for nation’s good), Indira Gandhi (she was the best Indian PM), Sanjay Gandhi (much better than Rajiv) and Nathuram Godse (didn’t Gandhi really deserve to die?), Narendra Modi (he did not resign after the Gujarat genocide) at various points in the interview. He is anti-Mahatma Gandhi but without any convincing reason and of course anti-Muslims whom he considers guilty as a community because they can’t be proven innocent.
During the interview Shekhar Gupta never pursued a line of questioning and conveniently moved on to the next issue even when Thackeray’s responses were bizarre. Overall, Thackeray comes across incoherent (he contradicts himself), megalomaniac (he loves when people fear him), open-to-flattery (he is happy that none other than Amitabh Bacchan portrayed him in Sarkar) and hurt (because Suresh Prabhu was pocketing all the money and not giving to the party). My big concern is that such a person still holds the strings of power in Maharastra especially Mumbai and even his rhetoric can be inflammatory.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ When Modi was the chief minister, he had to make sure that every citizen under his rule was safe. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Raj Dharm. He failed in that. Do you agree?
What mistake has Modi made? Can you tell me? When you are attacked, you have to retaliate, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t keep quiet. Who started the riots first there in Ahmedabad? Who attacked whom? First came the Godhra incident, that was also equally cruel, ugly. Then came Ahmedabad. People then retaliated.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Are you saying that Muslims started the riots in Ahmedabad?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ But why do you say you are not a Gandhian? Do you have some disagreements with Gandhi?
Yes, I do.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Tell us about them.
To understand me, you have to go back to 1948, or even before that. Have you ever thought of GodseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s action, why he decided to kill? He got annoyed, upset, very upset. Even after giving a chunk of our land to Muslims, you were giving Rs 55 crore to them. Godse thought that if this old man lives any longer then he will ruin the country.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ And you think Godse was right in thinking so?
You have to think. WasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t he?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ You are a cartoonist. When you wake up in the morning, what makes you laugh? Or cry?
Nothing makes me laugh or cry. The standard of journalism has gone down so much. The column writers make the most mischief.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ But in terms of whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s happening in your city and country, what makes you happy?
There are no happy incidents, only blasts and murders. Bangladeshi Muslims pouring in. Pakistanis wreaking havoc. How can you feel happy?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ But there is 9 per cent growth. Infrastructure is being built. Indian companies are buying firms overseas.
See, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t see anything to be happy about. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a horrible situation. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s (India is) sinking.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ You wrote an editorial recently in Samna praising Saddam Hussein.
Yes I did, because I did not like it when Bush attacked Iraq. He had no reason to attack a foreign nation. Suppose tomorrow, Russia attacks America, will you tolerate that?
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ How does that square with your suspicion of the Muslims?
Well, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t blame all Muslims, but it is difficult to make out which Muslim loves this country and calls India his own country and which doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ But donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you think the vast majority of Muslims here see themselves as citizens of India? There may be some black sheep, but they are there in all communities.
Find them then. I am requesting the good Muslims to remove the black sheep from among their people. Come ahead and do that. Whenever there is a riot or some such thing in the country, not a single Muslim comes forward to protest against it. In the border issue between Maharashtra and Karnataka, the Maharashtrian Muslims should speak for the state.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ OK, Shiv Shahi. SaddamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s method of governance or HitlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s was not Shiv Shahi. But you have expressed admiration for both at different times.
Hitler did very cruel and ugly things. But he was an artist, I love him (for that). He had the power to carry the whole nation, the mob with him. You have to think what magic he had. He was a miracle.