Will Shiv Sena benefit from Ayodhya issue in Maharashtra?
The popular theory in Maharashtra’s political circles is that the Hindu hard-line agenda will give Uddhav Thackeray an excuse to realign with the BJP after his bitter criticism of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre for the last four years.Updated: Nov 24, 2018 23:57 IST
In the late 1980s, as various outfits in the Sangh Parivar started campaigning for the construction of a Ram temple in place of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray was quick to sense the changing public mood and hop on to the Hindutva bandwagon. He adopted the hard-line Hindu agenda more aggressively than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), forcing the latter to align with the Shiv Sena. Thackeray’s party gained more from the hard-line Hindutva than the BJP. Within a few years, the Sena-BJP alliance was in power with Sena playing the role of the big brother.
Now, almost three decades later, Thackeray’s son and current Sena chief, Uddhav, is doing the same. As Hindu right-wing outfits have started raising the pitch for a Ram temple, Uddhav has not spent much time to pick up the issue. His Ayodhya visit is aimed at the same.
However, 2018 is not 1989; the Ram temple issue has not become that big, though some outfits are planning to take it across India. So why is the Sena doing this now?
The popular theory in Maharashtra’s political circles is that the Hindu hard-line agenda will give Uddhav an excuse to realign with the BJP after his bitter criticism of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre for the last four years. Several leaders from both parties are privately admitting that the alliance will be inevitable if they have to counter the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party led coalition in Maharashtra in the coming elections.
According to Sena insiders, this is not entirely wrong but there is more behind Uddhav’s move. “It is a fact that Hindutva could be the common ground for us to align with the BJP. For the past four years, we have been criticising the Modi-Shah regime in the BJP. If we forge an alliance with the BJP, it would be for Hindutva and not for Modi. We can’t go to the people and seek votes in the name of Prime Minister Modi after criticising him,” said a key Sena leader, who did not wish to be named.
“Further, it seems the BJP will also take the help of the Hindutva agenda since the situation in the country today is not similar to 2014 when it swept the elections. In that case, we will have leverage as they know that the voters responding to the Hindutva agenda would be divided between them and us,” he added.
And what if the two parties contest separately?
There is one more reason why the Sena leadership wants to adopt a hard-line agenda: It will help the party reach out to non-Marathi voters in the Mumbai-Thane-Pune belt, especially Mumbai.
The Sena’s leadership is aware that votes of the Marathi-speaking population will not be enough to win assembly elections or even the Mumbai civic body polls, which is crucial for the party. The Sena’s top brass realised this when the BJP won more assembly seats than the Sena in Mumbai in 2014 and came close to it in the 2016 civic polls. If the Sena has to reach out to non-Marathi voters, it will need the wider appeal of Hindutva. It can click with north Indian and Gujarati voters who are the largest groups after Maharashtrians in the Mumbai-Thane belt.
First Published: Nov 24, 2018 23:56 IST