I remember playing role of late Shri. Balasaheb Thackeray in a fancy-dress competition when I was kid. I didn’t know much about him at that time but with the help of dialogue and his peculiar getup I could seize the 1st prize easily. I learnt more about him while growing up. Hinduhridaysamrat (loosely, ‘the one who rules Hindu hearts’) was an apt nickname for him. He was an extremely popular politician of his generation, well known for his strong political views as well as satirical cartoons.
He was seen as an answer to Congress’ minority appeasement politics in Maharashtra and for that reason he was revered by Hindus all across the world. Most of us mourned his demise in 2012. As a fan of Balasaheb, I was curious and I must say a little worried, about the fate of Shiv Sena in coming years. Because by that time, Raj, who was a natural successor according to many Shiv Sainiks, had already separated from Thackeray family and Uddhav, who was neither a good orator nor had the aura of his father, was now holding reins of Shiv Sena.
Different generations have different demands. The 70s-90s era was marked with gang wars, riots, communal fights and therefore required a strong, decisive, in-your-face kind of leadership which Balasaheb provided. But the next generation was looking for development and peace. It was looking for a dynamic leader who understands their concerns and needs. I’m not sure if Uddhav, and for that matter even Raj, realized that. Both seemed to be in a race to fill in Balasaheb’s shoes rather than creating their own space and their own formula. Therefore, ever since Uddhav took over the reins of Shiv Sena, it’s originality and popularity seem to have gone in a terminal decline mode. Here’s an account of some of recent events that epitomize this belief.
2014- Fight with BJP over seat sharing formula
In the assembly elections, traditionally, Shiv Sena used to fight on around 160 seats while BJP used to contest on about 120. But BJP’s unprecedented success in general elections boosted its confidence to demand about half the number of available seats. Shiv Sena disagreed and hence both parties fought separately only to come together after election, albeit BJP became the major party for the first time. But Shiv Sena was in no mood to accept this defeat gracefully and hence the next 4 years were marked with Shiv Sena’s continuous display of grudge and whining on issues ranging from demonetization to farmer loan waiver. They simply forgot the fact that they are the part of NDA alliance.
2017- Heavy losses in BMC election
Shiv Sena had been ruling BMC since last so many years that for some people BMC was Shiv Sena and Shiv Sena was BMC. But like the assembly elections, Shiv Sena and BJP fought separately and unexpectedly BJP gained many seats. No party had the numbers to claim the mayorship on its own. Eventually BJP supported SS in forming the mayor.
Before elections there was a talk of Uddhav coming out of NDA demanding fresh assembly polls. But this unexpected result again dented his confidence and any hopes of reclaiming major state party position.
2017- Shocker of a press conference
Rain had wreaked havoc in Mumbai again. People were angry with BMC and hence Uddhav decided to participate in a press meet. One would have expected him and BMC officials to be sober and sorry but boy was Uddhav arrogant and angry or what! He displayed his helplessness and disdain for others by asking media to stop the rains themselves.
2018- Abstaining in No Confidence Motion
With a lot of hue and cry, TDP and INC brought in No Confidence motion against the Modi Govt and eventually lost it comfortably. But the real loser was Shiv Sena as it decided to abstain from voting. This was Uddhav’s suicidal masterstroke. In an effort to show its might, it lost its weight which must have broken hearts of even core Shiv Sainiks. For Amit Shah, if this wasn’t a nail in the coffin, surely it was some sort of betrayal. Otherwise why would he indicate his party members to be ready to fight elections all alone in Maharashtra?
2018: Heavy losses in local elections
If there was any doubt on people losing confidence in Shiv Sena, it would have been rested after the recent municipality elections. BJP won Jalgaon, which was previously held by Shiv Sena, and Sangli, where Shiv Sena drew blank.
Yet, there are no indications suggesting Shiv Sena’s serious introspection. Clear parallels can be drawn between the Congress party and Shiv Sena. Both are dynast, both have incapable leaders, both believe in attacking BJP without any genuine public interest, both have shown little respect for public mandate, and both have motor-mouth publications. Like Congress, arrogance and lack of inspirational leadership is hurting Shiv Sena and they are in dire state. Unless it opens up and brings in fresh, uncorrupted minds, there are slim chances of its revival. All that will remain is Balasaheb’s glory.