When Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray turned 50 in 1977, his 12 year old party was a strong political entity in Mumbai, waiting to win all the elections that came its way.
As his son and party executive president Uddhav Thackeray turns 50 on Tuesday, the 44 year old party is going through its worst ever crisis. Uddhav’s political future and that of the party are inter linked.
Challenges are numerous. While old time Sainiks say they are finding the party increasingly directionless, the new generation of party workers says the leadership seems to have no strategy or public presence.
For Uddhav and the Sena, the biggest challenge now is to win the 2012 municipal elections to sustain power. With an aggressive alternative in the Raj Thackeray led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena the party seems to be losing base and needs to win the civic elections to consolidate its position.
“Uddhav has a near impossible task of keeping his flock together. Even the Bharatiya Janata Party is getting belligerent because it wants to establish its independent identity in Maharashtra,” political analyst Surendra Jondhale said.
Nilu Damle, another senior political analyst, however felt it was unfair to compare Uddhav and his father. “Balasaheb struggled a lot to reach this position. For Uddhav, it is just the beginning and we should give him time,” Damle said.
A senior Sena leader said: “When Balasaheb was 50, he inaugurated the Sena Bhavan building at Dadar and sent a message to the people that a regional party in Maharashtra was getting stronger,” the leader said. “He had addressed Sainiks standing on the first floor parapet of the building. Even traffic stopped. Udhhav is yet to have his big moment.”