All contradictions resolved, the hard work begins now
Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray seems to have resolved the contradiction between his government and his ideology pretty neatly. Although he had professed in the Maharashtra Assembly in December that his party had made a mistake mixing religion with politics, it was never going to be easy convincing people about that change of heart. Uddhav’s sober, conciliatory personality was visible right from the word go, but it took nearly two decades to mould the party in his image and now it is impressive that while he has avowed his secularism from the temple of democracy, he has also managed to avoid the tag of power hungry hypocrisy by visiting Ayodhya and donating ₹1 crore from party funds towards building the Ram temple there.
He keeps his faith and now if he does little more, he really cannot be accused of being untrue to either his religion or his office.
It is interesting that the chief minister’s Ayodhya visit came and went without much remark beyond the usual expectations. It has put no pressure on the tripartite alliance and it is business as usual after the Ayodhya visit. It is clear now that no partner in this government is going to allow a small thing like a temple in Ayodhya to collapse its government.
But some contradictions remain. In a recent editorial in the Saamna, party MP Sanjay Raut described the Delhi riots as a ‘dance of death’ and said even Lord Yamraj, the Hindu God of death, would have run away from the scene. As I presume he would have from every other riot in the country. In his piece, Raut described the riot as arising from politics sans humanity and cruel religious hysteria that gives rise to a kind if nationalism that kills the rest of humanity and the country. One has to know if they mean it because the Shiv Sena’s history speaks quite the opposite.
The fact, however, is if Raut and Uddhav Thackeray were not of the conciliatory kind, the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra would never have come into being and on that count the party needs to be given an opportunity to shed its past baggage and adopt a more mainstream approach to politics that should raise no doubts about its secular credentials.
It is only becoming apparent now but the recasting of the Shiv Sena in a less unsavoury mould that would be more acceptable to those wary of its previously lumpen image began years ago, when Uddhav Thackeray realised he could not find comparable candidates vis-à-vis other political parties to represent the Shiv Sena in Parliament. From poaching from other political parties to building his own set of committed intellectuals, like Raut, has been a long haul, but the party seems to have finally arrived where he wanted it and it is unlikely now that they will jeopardise everything they have built over the past two decades or more to trip themselves up in the conflict between ideology and government.
Now most of the tough issues, including like that of the citizenship amendment law, have been done and dusted for the government. What remains is for Uddhav Thackeray to return the party to its original moorings – the aspirational youth who may, this century, be looking for rather more than jobs just as turners, loaders and fitters and scale the heights that other youngsters across the country are aspiring to.
That is going to be the real test of the party’s mettle and could make or break it at the end of its term in government. Ayodhya was a cakewalk by comparison.