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The Shiv Sena’s makeover is not going well

mumbai Updated: Sep 25, 2018 22:50 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Shiv SEna,BJP,Maharashtra

Shiv Sena chairperson Uddhav Thackeray.(HT Photo)

Of late, the Shiv Sena seems rather a chastened political party. It is, of course, continuing to take potshots at the BJP but apart from a few verbal salvos or editorials in the Saamna, the tiger has lost much of its roar.

The ongoing generational changes within the organisation are all too visible. In Nashik, the party is all set to host a reality show, Voice of Nashik, a musical talent hunt that has the stamp of Aaditya Thackeray all over it. Senior Shiv Sainiks are not one bit happy about this midway gear change in the party.

Nashik has emerged as the hub of political activity in recent times. There is a bitter fight here between the BJP, which is ruling the municipal corporation and all other political parties struggling to overcome the BJP domination. These other parties have got off the ground with protests and rallies on serious issues like the rising petrol prices and saving the Constitution.

Older Shiv Sainiks who were used to hitting the streets at the slightest provocation have been unhappy that all the party has been doing of late is ‘bayaan baaji’ while the NCP and the Congress have already taken their fights to the streets for these issues. The recent release of Chhagan Bhujbal after an incarceration of nearly two years has already led to the revival of the NCP and both the Congress and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena are not too far behind in raising issues vociferously and consistently.

The Shiv Sena was conceptualised as a nativist organisation to protect Maharashtrian traditions and culture, but after the initial years it did not remain the defining character of the party. So while these Shiv Sainiks are not against their party leaders sponsoring talent contests or emerging as style icons, their definition of a political party rooted to the ground is very different.

These leaders feel no matter how much their party leaders might hobnob or rub shoulders with the A-listers or the bold and the beautiful of the country, such celebrities never vote for the Sena, which they continue to regard as uncouth and extortionist. This was clearly visible during the municipal elections last year when not just in Nashik but also in Mumbai, voters in upscale areas like Malabar Hill or Juhu where the Shiv Sena was trying hard, preferred BJP, Congress, or NCP instead.

Although the Sena won that election by the skin of its teeth, it was obvious that the GenNext that it wanted to impress were really not, while their core base of rustic voters stayed on somewhat reluctantly, wondering how long they could depend on the party for what they have always looked up to it for — instant justice, rapid solution of basic problems in their daily existences and, yes, jobs around their local areas.

However, it is not just the attempt to turn the Shiv Sena into a party of gentlemen that is bothering the older lot. They are also worried about the lack of clarity regarding their future. Are they friends with the BJP and does the leadership plan to forge a relationship with the ruling party finally or not?

If not, why are they being made to create resentments between themselves and the party workers of the BJP by obstructing the ruling party, every step of the way? These resentments could get in the way of their future electoral prospects as many of them could suffer internal sabotage by the BJP in case they eventually ally with the party.

In view of so many of the BJP’s allies jumping ship in recent months for categorically stated reasons, the Shiv Sena’s on-again, off-again policy is likely to damage its own electoral interests, the old guard feels. There is a reluctant admiration for Rahul Gandhi who has now emerged as a consistent tormentor of Narendra Modi and his government. On the other hand, Uddhav Thackeray’s similar statements on the same issues are seen as hypocrisy by his own party men given that the Shiv Sena continues to cling to said government, both in the state and at the Centre, unlike even Chandrababu Naidu who showed the courage of conviction to walk out of the alliance and pull his ministers out of the government.

The Shiv Sena then is clearly at a crossroads, hanging like a trishanku between the old and the new; government and the opposition; courage to take on the ruling dispensation but cowardice in walking the talk. It is in danger of ending up neither here nor there.

First Published: Sep 25, 2018 22:49 IST