How Raj Thackeray Became Modi’s Biggest Fact Checker

Pavan Dahat
Raj Thackeray in a file photo

PUNE, Maharashtra: Raj Thackeray has just finished taking apart a claim made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bihar last year, that 8.50 lakh toilets were built in one week.

“8.50 lakh toilets in one week means 84 toilets in one minute. That’s seven toilets every five seconds, which is impossible,” he rattles off sternly, as the crowd at the rally in Satara in Maharashtra claps.

And then comes the line that makes the audience roar.

“It (pressure) doesn’t even happen that fast, and this is the speed at which he claims to have built the toilets,” Thackeray delivers with a casual downward gesture that makes it clear what he is referring to.

This is how Thackeray, the man once seen as Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray’s rightful heir in oratory skills as well as whipping up xenophobia, is making himself relevant this election season: trolling Modi, and essentially fact-checking his claims.

The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief isn’t contesting from any Lok Sabha seat himself, nor is his party part of any alliance, but after he held two rallies in the state, the BJP complained to the Election Commission about him.

Why?

Thackeray hasn’t openly been asking his supporters to vote for any party—instead, he tells them to vote against Modi and his right-hand man, BJP president Amit Shah.

“If they come back to power again, Indian democracy will be in danger and you all will be made slaves,” he thunders at his rallies.

The expenditure for Thackeray’s programmes, says a rattled BJP, should be put on the account of Congress-NCP candidates.

So why does a man, who has no visible skin in the game gain, is traveling across the state on an anti-BJP plank? And is it even making a difference?

 

Thackeray showing PM Modi's video clips during his rally in Pune last week

From violent rhetoric to fact-checking

It’s been a long time since Thackeray was discussed with any seriousness in Maharashtra’s political discourse.

It was in 2006 that Thackeray broke away from the Shiv Sena to form the MNS. He had been discontent for a few years after...

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