Bal Thackeray moved from parochialism to communalism and, eventually, in the winter of his life, seemed to swing between the two.
The Sena of 1966, and the subsequent two decades, was a socio-political outfit built on regional and language identity markers in a cosmopolitan city.
“Even his harshest critics will concede that Thackeray helped cement the Marathi identity in a city that was becoming non-Marathi,” said Prakash Akolkar, author of a volume on Thackeray. The “sons-of-the-soil” theory had been shaped.
In the mid-80s, Thackeray moved from parochialism to what he believed was a larger unifying force: religious identity. It coincided with the upsurge in Hindutva politics of the BJP.
“Thackeray realised that concentrating on the Marathi manoos plank had got him marginal electoral results,” says a senior Sena leader. “When he switched to Hindutva, the numbers surged.”
In the next decade, though, as son Uddhav’s worldview began to shape the party, the Sena seemed to sport an uncharacteristic inclusive character, but quickly settled down to a mix of the old “son-of-the-soil” and Hindutva.