While the year-long celebration of the Shiv Sena’s entry into its golden jubilee year may bring along a host of schemes and special events, it is also expected to help the party chief in his next task – the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections that are two years away.
The Sena, which was initially launched as a party that fought for the rights of the Marathi manoos, reached soaring heights under the leadership of its founder and the late chief Bal Thackeray. However, though currently a part of the government both at the Centre and the state, the party is at crossroads.
A reluctant Uddhav, who broke the two-decade alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the seat-sharing agreement for the state elections, was forced to join hands with them under political compulsions in November 2014. Reason: the saffron parties were coming to power in the state after a gap of almost 15 years and the Sena was keen to be a part of it. Moreover, it was already the BJP’s ally at the Centre.
But things have not been hunky-dory. The Sena got a raw deal in the state ministries with 10 berths, that too mostly insignificant ones. It has been more of an Opposition party, which openly criticised the BJP over issues ranging from farmer suicides and land acquisition bill in the Centre to the Jaitapur nuclear plant.
“The polls will be the litmus test for Uddhav, and an opportunity that he needs to use well. The strategy he makes for these elections will decide the Sena’s future. Also, its stand vis-a-vis the BJP will become clear,” said Surendra Jondhale, political analyst.
The Sena’s two-decade tenure in the Mumbai civic body, one of the richest in India, gives it an upper hand over the BJP, which has been bullying the it after getting more seats in both the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha polls. The challenge for the Sena will be not only to keep the civic corporation under control, but ensure the BJP does not grow in the city.
The Sena leaders are confident things will work out for them. As part of their celebrations, several programmes aimed at boosting the state’s social infrastructure will be launched, with a thrust on farmers’ issues, health and education. “In the 50th year, our aim will be to become our best and emerge as the single largest and number one party in the state. We will have programmes and schemes designed around this goal. The Mumbai makeover projects that our party will undertake, along with the aspirations of the Marathi audience, will take us ahead,” said Sena MP Sanjay Raut.