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A crucial year ahead for Uddhav Thackeray and his Sena

The Sena’s challenge is to regain the status of the senior partner in the state alliance, which it lost to the ‘Modi wave’ in 2014.

mumbai Updated: Jul 27, 2018 17:08 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Maharashtra,Uddhav Thackeray
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray turned 58 on Friday.(HT File Photo)

The year ahead is a crucial one for Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who turned 58 on Friday, and his party, as he leads the charge against its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha and Mahararashtra Assembly elections. The Sena is battling to regain the status of the senior partner in the state alliance, which it lost to the ‘Modi wave’ in 2014.

Over the past six years, after Uddhav took over the reins of the party following the death of his father and Sena founder Bal Thackeray in November 2012, he has faced several challenges, perhaps the biggest one being doubts over his ability to steer the party ahead.

Questions were raised whether Uddhav would be able to “shoulder the responsibility” of the party, senior party leaders admitted. “The Sena has many aggressive leaders at the top, and there were doubts about his ability to handle the party. But he has dealt with the situation in his own style. He is a soft-spoken leader, but an assertive one,” a party leader said, on condition of anonymity.

Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande added: “Balasaheb’s personality was completely different from his. Uddhavji has proved everybody wrong with his acumen and administrative skills. Under his leadership, the number of MLAs and corporators, not just in Mumbai but in other municipal corporations too, has gone up.”

Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said the Sena fared well in the 2014 Assembly elections, given the strong Modi wave, and that it was a “challenge” for Uddhav to remain a relevant political force in the post-2014 scenario. “Thackeray’s challenge then was to remain an independent political force, at the same time balancing the wishes of his party members to be in power. Had he not decided to join the government, it would have been difficult to keep his flock together,” he said.

Since then, Uddhav has become even more assertive, even aggressive, in taking on the BJP-led government on several issues, Jondhale said. Under him, the Sena has been strongly critical of several decisions and policies made by the central and state governments, virtually taking over the Opposition space.

Now, Thackeray’s next big challenge is to steer the party successfully in the 2019 elections, and regain lost ground.

First Published: Jul 27, 2018 17:08 IST