Amidst dense political turmoil, Uddhav Thackeray prepares to woo Marathi Manoos
Nashik has always been a comeback city for Shiv Sena. Bal Thackeray had launched his campaign from Nashik after a split in 1991 and came back with a resounding majority
The Shiv Sena is in turmoil after the rebel MLAs formed a new government with the Bharatiya Janata Party but early indications are that the majority of grassroots workers remain with Uddhav Thackeray.
Uddhav is attempting to gauge his strength with the launch of a ‘Nishtha Yatra’ (Loyalty March) across the state. His son and MLA Aaditya Thackeray has been spearheading this campaign and has been meeting the office bearers and party workers throughout the state, starting with Mumbai.
Last week, senior leader of Sena and MP Sanjay Raut was on a two-day visit to Nashik in this regard. On the first day of his visit as part of the Nishtha Yatra, Raut met the office bearers of Rural Nashik and discussed the next step for the Sena.
All office bearers were present and pledged their loyalty to the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena. The next day, Raut met the workers and office-bearers of Nashik city. The meet saw a huge turn out and about 2,500 workers and office-bearers marked their presence to support the Sena of former CM Uddhav Thackeray.
Nashik has always been a comeback city for the Shiv Sena. When Chhagan Bhujbal had split the party in 1991, Bal Thackeray launched his campaign from Nashik and came back with a resounding majority, even forming a government in Maharashtra in alliance with the BJP.
Ironically, Bhujbal hailed from Nashik and today he says that no Marathi manoos wants to see the end of the Shiv Sena. “The Marathi manoos needs the Shiv Sena,” he insists. He ought to know. He had to shift constituencies until he found the right one to elect him on a Congress-NCP ticket.
Not surprisingly, Raut described Nashik as the door to power. He was speaking against the backdrop of the upcoming Nashik Municipal elections. Then Bhujbal had been a rebel, now Nandgaon MLA Suhas Kande is a rebel and party MP Hemant Godse seems have one foot in both camps, having attended the meeting called by Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai, then the one called by Eknath Shinde in New Delhi.
A split is not a new phenomenon for the Shiv Sena. It has risen above the splits led by Bhujbal, Narayan Rane and one even by Raj Thackeray. Each time the Shiv Sena came back stronger.
The crowds gathered at the Nashik meet suggests that the same might happen again. There is no mass exodus towards the Shinde camp and Shinde will have his work cut out for him.
(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)