Nadda’s remark could help Uddhav get back voters

Updated on Aug 06, 2022 12:48 AM IST
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president J P Nadda’s claim that Shiv Sena will soon be decimated in Maharashtra could in fact work in favour of the Uddhav Thackeray-led party ahead of the crucial Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls
Uddhav Thackeray Pratik Chorge/HT Photo
Uddhav Thackeray Pratik Chorge/HT Photo
By, Mumbai

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president J P Nadda’s claim that Shiv Sena will soon be decimated in Maharashtra could in fact work in favour of the Uddhav Thackeray-led party ahead of the crucial Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls.

Speaking in Patna earlier this week, Nadda said, “Shiv Sena, which is nearing its end, is a dynastic party.”

This statement, Sena leaders said, would make the Maharashtrians rally behind them.

Sena feeds on the existential dilemmas of the Marathi manoos in Mumbai, who is not in a majority, but is the largest linguistic minority in the megapolis and fears being marginalised further. The Marathi working and middle classes see Sena as their alter ego.

The BJP, on the other hand, continues to be perceived as a party dominated by non-Maharashtrians and mercantile groups in Mumbai. The interests of these groups seem to be at odds with those of the Marathi working and middle classes, who form the bedrock of Sena’s support base.

It’s worth mentioning that Governor B S Koshyari had already inflamed the sons-of-the soil feelings when he said that non-Maharashtrian mercantile groups like Gujaratis and Rajasthanis were responsible for Mumbai’s status as the financial capital.

“Finishing off Sena is like a daydream. Indians like a personality-centric brand of politics. After Congress and Sena, even the BJP is walking down that path,” veteran Shiv Sainik Satish Valanju said.

Every time Sena was in trouble and whenever attempts were made to corner Balasaheb (Bal Thackeray), Sena had coalesced and emerged stronger, he said. “These events have a positive effect on the party.”

Sena leaders pointed to two precedents.

In 2012, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party were in power and the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena was in the ascendant. Then chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had said that after the BMC elections that year, Sena would become “inconsequential.” This led to Sena cadre and supporters closing ranks and voting for the party, helping it retain power in India’s richest civic body.

Similarly, in 1985, one of Chavan’s predecessors Vasantdada Patil had claimed that there could be a plot to sever Mumbai from Maharashtra. Sena was then smarting after a series of electoral reverses beginning with its decision to support Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. Sena supremo Bal Thackeray upped the ante on the issue leading to massive linguistic polarisation in the campaign, in which Uddhav Thackeray, who was yet to join active politics, had played a major role behind the scenes. This led Sena to sweep the elections and the party controlled the BMC from 1985 to 1992 and from 1997 to date.

Sena was formed in 1966 as a reflection of the existential anxieties of the Marathi manoos in Mumbai, a senior leader from the Eknath Shinde camp said. “These anxieties have grown starker over the years under the watch of Sena, though the party continues to benefit from these insecurities.”

Valanju further said that the split in Sena induced by the BJP, Koshyari’s statement (for which he apologised later), and the attempts to create a parallel Sena minus the Thackeray family, created a stronger sense of allegiance among the Shiv Sainiks and Maharashtrians.

“Uddhavji has always said that the BJP wants to finish off Sena. Have those who left the party [with Shinde] done anything to keep it [Sena] alive?... they too want it to be finished off,” Sena’s Lok Sabha MP Arvind Sawant alleged.

He accused the BJP of trying to finish off the opposition, and said this was dangerous for democracy and the principle of freedom of expression.

Leaders from the BJP and the Shinde faction have rushed to ensure damage control.

“JP Naddaji has said that Sena under Uddhav Thackeray is not there anymore. The new Sena is under [Eknath] Shinde’s leadership. Please do not create confusion in the minds of the people,” deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said.

Deepak Kesarkar, spokesperson of the Shinde group, said, “In Maharashtra, there is an alliance between the BJP and Sena, and he seems to have meant that it is only our alliance that will stay…”

Political analyst Hemant Desai said these statements portending the end of Sena had led to its loyalists standing by the party.

Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray’s ‘Shiv Samvad Yatra’ in the state had seen a good response, he said, adding that the Shinde camp was simmering with unease due to the delay in the expansion of the cabinet, with chances that this could intensify after the exercise was completed. “Put together, this has led to sympathy for Uddhav Thackeray.”

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