I was never more in agreement with Sanjay Raut of the Shiv Sena than on the day the results of the Bihar elections came pouring in -- to paraphrase him, arrogance lost and humility won.
No one could have been better placed to understand the value of humility in politics than Raut. Often seen as Bal Thackeray’s alter ego when the Sena tiger was alive -- he could read Thackeray’s mind in any situation; Saamna’s editorials written by him were a perfect reflection of Thackeray’s own political philosophies -- Raut has had first-hand experience of both arrogance and humility.
Bal Thackeray was not a humble man and in his lifetime he never won more than one seat in the Maharashtra assembly at a time. The Sena managed a decent showing only in alliance with the BJP in the 1990s but then the Shiv Sena, in late 2014, was confronted by the BJP’s arrogance. The BJP believed it could kick the party in the guts after riding piggy back on the tiger for nearly three decades.
Only now, after losing heavily not just in Bihar, where the Shiv Sena was in direct conflict with the BJP, in many constituencies polling substantial votes and perhaps destroying the BJP’s chances in a few seats, is Big Brother realising that it is not easy to dismount a tiger -- even if it is the humbler cub Uddhav Thackeray.
Thackeray’s son and heir, with his humility, has managed far better results for his party than either his father before him or now the BJP or even his cousin Raj Thackeray, president of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, who has been virtually reduced to a cipher for his arrogant dealings in politics.
But while I agree with Raut that humility wins the day, I am not quite so sure of his claim that were mid-term polls to be held in the state tomorrow, the Shiv Sena on its own would end up with 175 out of 288 seats.
For while the Sena has a presence in Bombay and its surrounding regions, it is of no consequence in places like western Maharashtra, parts of Marathwada and Vidarbha, where perhaps, the NCP and the Congress might run away with the cheese.
Congress bosses were startled, with jaws dropping, when they wiped out the BJP in Vidarbha in the recent local polls (where just a year ago the BJP had swept 44 of the 60-odd assembly seats). They are still not able to understand what they may have done right -- except that after their 2014 defeat and later divorce with the NCP, there is no arrogance on display, which used to come essentially from the NCP’s Ajit Pawar while both were in government.
Sharad Pawar, the Maratha warlord and Ajit’s uncle, has been ecstatic about the Bihar results, even describing them as a Champaran-like precursor of a national movement for change. But if Pawar, with or without the Congress, has been unable to pull off such a great victory in his state as Nitish Kumar did on Bihar, he must look inwards and acknowledge that even if his arrogance does not show as much as his nephew’s does, his sense of entitlement defeats all the good work he might have done for Maharashtra.
Pawar believes that no one knows Maharashtra better than he does (which might well be true) but then has always tried to rule the state as a personal fiefdom even when he was not strictly in government in Maharashtra. His support for the BJP in October 2014 was precisely that -- an attempt to govern from the backseat but now he seems to be having second thoughts and is turning his face again towards the Congress.
Humility in defeat is one thing. But now will even the Sena rise to arrogance in victory? Who knows.
Sujata Anandan is political editor, Hindustan Times. The views expressed are personal.