The Shiv Sena-BJP alliance’s role in intensifying the protests against Jaitapur N-plant bring to mind a strong sense of deja vu. Analysts are drawing a parallel between the protests now with the happenings around the Enron power project at Dabhol in Ratnagiri in 1991.
The Sena first jumped into the Jaitapur issue in December 2010, by supporting the locals on the issue of environment and livelihood. On April 9, executive president Uddhav Thackeray’s rally, which attracted thousands of people, set Sena’s involvement into motion. “What the government has done on Monday is not acceptable. It has opened fire on activists and our people,” said Sena leader and legislator Ramdas Kadam, referring to the killing of protester Tabrez Abdul Sayanekar.
Analysts say the Sena’s aggressive stand coincides with the 2012 civic and district elections in important areas like Mumbai, Thane and Pune. The Sena will have to reclaim lost ground amongst voters from the Konkan belt to win these elections.
The agitation and its repercussion could benefit the Sena. “The timing is perfect for Sena and so is the cause but they have also given people power to express themselves. Else the government would not have heard them at all,” said political commentator Surendra Jondhale. The 2011 story is the same as 1991, says Jondhale. In 1995, the Shiv Sena won the assembly elections — winning 13 of the 18 seats in the Konkan belt.
The protests could help the Sena as people from the Konkan region are originally saffron loyalists. Many voters in Mumbai and Thane are also from the region and Sena had lost seats in the region in the past election — to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and to the Congress because of its deflector minister Narayan Rane.
Jondhale says the Sena will also encash on the fact that the affected fishermen and the person killed in the protests are Muslims.