Did Morarji Desai hate Marathis?

By Sunil Kumar

Truthfully – to some extent, yes, I think so.

Most of what I’ve read about Morarji Desai gives one the impression that he was a strict puritan, a proud Gujarati and a follower of Gandhi. He’s also famous for demonetisation, informing Zia-ul-Haq about Indian assets ther ea and distaste for alcohol and gambling, among other things. He also seems to have been an egotist who liked to indulge in Machiavellian politics but was checkmated by an even craftier Indira in the 60s.

When powerful Gujarati businessmen attempted to lobby Desai in the 50s to keep commercial power centre Bombay(Mumbai) in Gujarat, he quickly agreed along with Congress(Maharashtrian) S.K Patil.

Some slogans from the 50s reflect the feelings the communities had for each other. While the Maharashtrians chanted ‘Mumbai aamchi, nahi kaunachya bapachi (Mumbai is ours, not anyone’s father’s),’ the Gujaratis countered it with, ‘Mumbai tumchi, bhandi ghasa aamchi (Mumbai is yours, but do our house work).’ Although modern Mumbai is a cosmopolitan mix – there is still an undercurrent of resentment- the reason the Shiv Sena tried to woo the Gujaratis with a special unit in the most recent elections. Also- according to some reports, Balasaheb Thackeray disliked the projection of PM Modi as the BJP candidate.

Incidentally, Nehru’s Congress and the RSS(under Golwalkar) agreed that there should not be linguistic reorganization of states, but protests and mass agitations forced Nehru’s hand

But firing on the ‘Samyukta Maharashtra’ protestors ordered by then CM of Bombay – Morarji Desai proved counterproductive as more than a hundred died and many more were injured. This unleashed a wave of resentment that led to Mumbai(Bombay) becoming part of Maharashtra rather than Gujarat.

Apart from this- Desai has nowhere directly mentioned anything about Maharashtrians as such. But, he definitely would have been more sympathetic to his community. So, if you consider the brutal ‘firing’ on protestors as proof- probably he disliked them.

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