Taming of the tiger

Updated: Jan 1 2006, 05:30am hrs
Balasaheb Thackeray is a narcissist. Perhaps all Fuehrers are. It is their strength as well as weakness. Many psychologists have attempted to analyse this trait. But not many have been able to throw light on how this individual trait becomes a mass phenomenon. The collective narcissism is also mass manifestation of acute identity crisis. The failure to connect with the world leads one to fall in love with oneself. For almost four decades the Thackerays were able to make their narcissism a mass Marathi expression of their identity crisis.

In its vanity is its charm. Thackeray as a person is very charming. He is as unabashed and unencumbered as a four- or five-year-old child. Shiv Sena was not a monster when it was born. When it became one, it began to flatter itself for acquiring such enormous power, which could call for a bandh - and within hours.

Mumbai would come to a halt. Some people attributed the success of the bandh to the charismatic appeal of Balasaheb. He immensely enjoyed his ability to generate fear psychosis. The media too fell in love with this icon, who without giving any vision, could dictate his terms to whoever was in power.

In private conversation, he is a jovial, warm and affectionate person. He has an uncanny sense of observation, acute understanding of inherent contradictions and a fascinating verve and flair for puns. He has no inhibitions in making direct, even funnily abusive and apparently harmless remarks. But when he uses the same language with great abandon on the stage, the words acquire a vicious and violent turn. He does not care, nor does he understand, why, in private conversation, that language gets appreciated but when made in public, gets condemned from the same elite. Though he talks of violent Hinduism, at heart Balasaheb is neither a religious person nor has caste discrimination. He has inherited his atheistic beliefs from his father, who was a leader of the anti-Brahmin movement and condemned the culture of temples and superstitious traditions. Balasaheb does not perform any rituals, does not do any puja paths nor does he trust astrologers. He makes fun of sadhus, gurus and swamis. Though he had not appealed to Shivsainiks to participate in the Advani-led rathyatra in 1990, nor sent Shivsainiks to demolish the Babri masjid, he enthusiastically owned the destruction as a glorious act of Hindu militancy by his followers!

Commentators fail to recognise that Balasaheb is an exhibitionist, who enjoys wild acts underscored by mindless language. He could not inculcate his narcissistic trait in his son and nephew completely. However, they have inherited it, not genetically, but politically. That is why Raj Thackeray imitates his style. Uddhav makes an effort to carve himself in his fathers image.

That is why, the Page-3 editors look at the Thackerays as celebrities. The mafia too appreciates the political patronage. The police feel secure in his support.

There are not many instances in history when narcissism of an individual gets transformed into collective political energy. Now that force is getting disintegrated. Balasahebs eloquent silence is because he has realised that the mirror which promoted that narcissism has cracked.