War over Bal Thackeray’s political legacy intensifies

Published on Jan 25, 2023 01:10 AM IST

On Tuesday, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadanvis reiterated that the Sena (UBT) leader was not the sole claimant of the late supremo’s legacy

Since Uddhav Thackeray broke the alliance with BJP and formed the government with Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party at the Centre has been accusing him of betraying Hindutva and Bal Thackeray’s political legacy, which among other things, was built on anti-Congress politics. (HT PHOTO)
Since Uddhav Thackeray broke the alliance with BJP and formed the government with Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party at the Centre has been accusing him of betraying Hindutva and Bal Thackeray’s political legacy, which among other things, was built on anti-Congress politics. (HT PHOTO)
BySaurabha Kulshreshtha

Mumbai: The birth anniversary celebrations of Shiv Sena supremo, late Bal Thackeray, on Monday, brought the war over his political legacy in the open. So that he could carry the torch forward, Shiv Sena (UBT) party president Uddhav Thackeray dared the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government to fight election without using the Sena founder’s picture. On other hand, Shinde and Fadnavis invited the Thackerays to the function in the state legislature, where the late leader’s portrait was unveiled, with an aim to dilute Uddhav Thackeray’s claim over his father’s legacy, which would eventually lead to a divide between him and his trusted electorate ahead of the local bodies and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls.

On Tuesday, deputy chief minister Devendra Fadanvis reiterated that the Sena (UBT) leader was not the sole claimant of the late supremo’s legacy. “Bal Thackeray is not Uddhav Thackeray’s private property, neither is Shiv Sena. Bal Thackeray belongs to Maharashtra,” said Fadanvis.

This statement was in alignment with Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) strategy to compromise ‘brand Thackeray’. Once this is achieved, with several claimants to the legacy – Eknath Shinde, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray and others in family with political aspirations – Uddhav Thackeray may not be able to garner the votes from the sons of the soil who have been loyal to Shiv Sena, said BJP insiders.

Since Uddhav Thackeray broke the alliance with BJP and formed the government with Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the ruling party at the Centre has been accusing him of betraying Hindutva and Bal Thackeray’s political legacy, which among other things, was built on anti-Congress politics.

After the split in Sena, engineered by Shinde, the leadership at the Centre has worked with a single-minded objective to dilute Thackeray’s legacy when it chose to appoint Shinde as the chief minister in the new government. Shinde’s confident claim over the party and subsequently choosing the name Balasahebanchi Shiv Sena (BSS) for his faction, were all the part of the same strategy, added BJP insiders.

The Shinde-Fadnavis government choosing Bal Thackeray’s birth anniversary to unveil is portrait was symbolic. Speaker of the legislative assembly Rahul Narvekar said that a few days ago, his office had invited the Thackerays, including Uddhav, Raj and Nihar, late Bindumadhav Thackeray’s son, as BJP “does not see Uddhav as the sole heir of Bal Thackeray”. This sentiment was echoed by many in BJP, including union minister Narayan Rane, at the function on Monday.

Senior Shiv Sena leader Diwakar Raote, who worked with the late Bal Thackeray, claimed Uddhav Thackeray had already “proved his mettle as Thackeray’s political heir and enjoys the support of Shiv Sena workers”.

“After the Sena founder’s death in 2012, BJP broke the alliance with Shiv Sena in the 2014 assembly elections. Uddhav Thackeray handled the situation with patience and won the 63 seats for party. Again in 2017, when BJP tried to seize power in BMC, Uddhav fought against all odds and proved that he enjoyed the support of people. In his last speech, Bal Thackeray had appealed to Shiv Sena workers to stand by Uddhav and Aaditya. So the question of Uddhav not being the sole claimant of the political legacy does not arise,” said Raote.

Political analyst Hemant Desai however felt that Uddhav Thackeray will have to work aggressively and chalk out a strategy to counter the BJP narrative on legacy.

“People have sympathy with Uddhav Thackeray, but it will fade with time. BJP-BSS and its allies are waiting for it. Uddhav Thackeray is aware of this, which is why he is joining hands with new political partners like Prakash Ambedkar,” said Desai. “Uddhav also needs to connect with the people more and display more aggression.”

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