State Oppn space up for grabs after Thackeray | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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State Oppn space up for grabs after Thackeray

Maharashtra politics, without the controversial presence of Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray, will be marked by turmoil not only in the party but equally in the political spectrum inhabited by opposition parties.

mumbai Updated: Nov 19, 2012 01:05 IST
Smruti Koppikar

Maharashtra politics, without the controversial presence of Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray, will be marked by turmoil not only in the party but equally in the political spectrum inhabited by opposition parties.

Uddhav Thackeray may graduate from being the party’s working president to being in command, but this, by default, may not allow him to occupy the opposition space in state politics that his father had stamped as his own for close to four decades.

Who emerges as the opposition leader could determine the fate of the 2014 general and state assembly elections, as well as the future course of state politics, say political analysts.

As a natural corollary to his ascension in the Sena, Uddhav should have been the one to take over, but he could encounter a number of challenges in being accepted as the state’s opposition leader.

“Who comes to occupy the opposition space in Maharashtra politics now will depend, to a great extent, on Uddhav’s leadership, organisational skills, ability to keep his flock together and chalking out a strategic plan,” said Dr B Venkatesh Kumar, a political analyst. “The longer that space is vacant, the more it will help the Congress-NCP.”

There is likely to some jostling between the Sena and its ally the BJP, which has played second fiddle to the Sena for the better part of the alliance, largely in deference to the age and socio-political command that Thackeray had. “Our equations do not have to remain the same as they have been for the last 25 years. They may change depending on the circumstances,” said a top BJP leader. Already, the Sena has had to yield the offices of the Leader of Opposition in both the legislative assembly and the council to the BJP in the last two years.

The other challenge to Uddhav comes from his cousin Raj Thackeray. Though Raj’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena does not, yet, have the numbers to lead the state opposition, he could move to occupy the political space that his uncle did.

Raj strikes an emotional chord with the people and uses the identity-based political ideology quite the same way that the late Thackeray used to, which means that irrespective of the numbers on his side, his claim to the opposition mantle cannot be ignored.

Then, the Congress and NCP could use the opportunity to render some of that space ineffective, by weakening the Sena or Sena-like forces.

In Konkan, which has been the Sena’s bastion, former Sena-man Narayan Rane, currently a cabinet minister, is likely to poach on Sena’s cadres and wean them away. The Sena’s social base in Marathwada could be coveted by locally powerful leaders of either the Congress or the BJP, analysts say.