Will Uddhav Thackeray be able to achieve in Maharashtra what other regional satraps did in their states?
Uddhav not only managed to keep his flock together but also put up a good show while leading the party in 2014 electionsUpdated: Jun 19, 2018 01:03 IST
The Shiv Sena is turning 52 on Tuesday. The party--that started in a few Marathi speaking pockets of Mumbai and is now spread across a significant part of Maharashtra--has come a long way. It is a partner in power in the state as well as central governments. This is the second time it is a ruling party in Maharashtra. It has been ruling India’s richest civic body for three decades and also has a strong presence in Mumbai-Pune-Nashik triangle which is one of the fastest developing regions in India.
The party founded by Bal Keshav Thackeray, a cartoonist turned politician, has seen several ups and downs and survived a number of setbacks. Over a decade ago, two of its strong leaders, former chief minister Narayan Rane and Thackeray’s nephew Raj, quit the organisation as they did not want to work under Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership. Many in political circles thought the party would slowly disintegrate after Thackeray’s death in November 2012. However, Uddhav not only managed to keep his flock together but also put up a good show while leading the party in 2014 elections. The mandate in 2014 assembly elections was such that the BJP had to take his help to run the government. Still, the Sena did not get the desired share in power and Uddhav has been criticizing the BJP at every possible opportunity. While it looked like the saffron partners would part ways after Uddhav announced his decision to go solo, things are changing now. The BJP is seeking a pre-poll alliance with the Sena. This has put Uddhav in a quandary. By the end of the year, he will have to decide whether to reunite with the BJP or stick to his decision to go solo.
Following BJP chief Amit Shah’s visit to Thackerays’ house earlier this month, the Sena top brass has been discussing the pros and cons of the BJP offer of a pre-poll tie up. Reuniting with the BJP would mean the saffron combine would be in a better position to fight the Congress-NCP led coalition of opposition parties to retain power in the state. Uddhav can also negotiate a better power-sharing deal, probably even chief ministership for half the tenure. However it would also mean certain limitation for the Sena. The party cannot contest half of the 288 assembly seats due to the alliance which means it may end up winning less number of seats than the BJP (In 2014 both parties contested on their own. BJP won 122, Sena 63). On the other hand, going solo may not mean success. With Congress-NCP coming together, the decision could backfire. A section of Sena leaders is pointing out how Sena has put limits on itself by committing to the alliance for nearly three decades. The party’s graph was rising in the late eighties and earlier nineties after Sharad Pawar vacated the opposition position by merging his party (Congress-S) with the Congress in 1987. The Sena could not take up the entire opposition space as it shared the same with the BJP, opine its senior leaders (incidentally, the BJP leaders too say the same). The party has strong presence in Konkan, Mumbai as well as north and central Maharashtra. It can improve its presence in western Maharashtra but has remained weak in Vidarbha region, a BJP stronghold. The fallout was that the Sena could never become strong enough to win power on its own. Unlike other regional parties such as Telugu Desam Party, Trinamool Congress, Biju Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party, the Shiv Sena could never win power in Maharashtra on its own though despite existence of over half a century. This was a major reason behind Uddhav’s decision to go solo in future elections. And this factor will be in his mind when he takes a decision on the BJP’s offer.
Uddhav took gamble in 2014 by contesting solo and did not regret it but can he take a similar risk in 2019?
First Published: Jun 19, 2018 01:01 IST