Shiv Sainiks feel BJP out to finish Thackeray’s party

Members of Shiv Sena suspect that the BJP and its Maharashtra leader Devendra Fadnavis intend to politically eliminate the party from the state for its own selfish ends

Photo Courtesy: Social Media
Photo Courtesy: Social Media

Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

In Maharashtra, the ties between the Shiv Sena and its members – the Sainiks – are more than just political; there is an emotional bondage between the two.

The party was founded by Bal Thackeray, popularly known as Balasaheb. For the Shiv Sainiks, whether in the Eknath Shinde camp or on Uddhav Thackeray’s side, the Shiv Sena can never be detached or disassociated from Bal Thackeray’s clan.

While Shinde, the rebel Sena leader, is showing aggression with the strength of MLAs with him in Guwahati, on the ground in Maharashtra, Shiv Sainiks are worried for the future of their party.

It is not merely a political party for them -- in fact, it is a party that connects the Marathi Manoos to his or her land.

The Sainiks suspect that the game of ruining the Sena was pre-set by the BJP. They claim that the actor in the play between Guwahati

and Mumbai is Eknath Shinde, but the director of the play is Devendra Fadnavis.

“He could not digest being unable to form the government in 2019 and he is hellbent on destroying our party,” said Varad Thakur, a Shiv Sainik from Thane, Eknath Shinde's home turf.

It is well known that the Sena regarded the BJP as a younger brother in Maharashtra. Bal Thackeray use to sometime taunt it as ‘Kamalabai’.

The Sena-BJP alliance was formed for the first time in 1989 when BJP leader Pramod Mahajan went to Bal Thackeray with a proposal to form an alliance. It is said that during that time, instead of replying orally, Bal Thackeray wrote on a piece of paper -- 'Shiv Sena will contest 200 seats and BJP should fight on the seats that are left out. The Maharashtra assembly has 288 seats.’

“Shiv Sena was never just a political party in the state. It was always the voice of the Marathi Manoos (local residents of Maharashtra whose mother tongue is Marathi). Soon the party was so entrenched that the masses as well as political parties awaited the editorials in the Sena’s mouthpiece Saamana, to see what Thackeray had for them. For the Shiv Sainiks, the name ‘Balasaheb Thackeray’ still matters beyond anything else, they still remember his satirical language, cartoons and his talks which they felt exhibited true leadership qualities. He criticized everyone in the Central or state government, if not on par, at least with equal gusto. He was a radical,” said Thakur.

The BJP then feared Balasaheb. However, we told the then leaders that Sainiks and their issues are not and would not be addressed by any minister from the BJP. The Shakha-pramukhs (area-wise group leader) were the ones to deal with these. The Shakha leaders promptly responded to the issues of Sainiks. On the ground it was very well understood that the BJP is not so pro-active for Sainiks," Thakur added.

Sainiks acknowledge that in the last few years, riding piggyback on their party, the BJP became a stronger party. Now there are more BJP MLAs and MPs in Maharashtra than the Shiv Sena . "The Modi government absorbed only one Shiv Sainik in its ministry,” said Surykant Shinde, a Sainik from Mazgaon in south Bombay.

The BJP wants to eliminate the Sena completely from the state and the sad part is that Eknath Shinde, despite knowing this, doesn't want to take the right decision. The fear of Central agencies among non-BJP leaders has gripped them hard. And they do not want to fight back either BJP or Fadnavis.

Suryakant Shinde added, “The scenario changed in the year 2019 during Maharashtra Assembly election when the BJP-Shiv Sena settled for 164-124 seat sharing formula in the assembly. Sena remained adamant on the 50-50 seat formula during the earlier Lok Sabha polls though, ultimately, in the end, BJP fought on 25 seats and Sena on 23 seats out of 48. After this, Shiv Sena put the offer of chief minister in front of the BJP for two and a half years. The BJP refused to accept it. The tussle between the two parties continued for almost a month. Meanwhile, Uddhav Thackeray formed the government and became the Chief Minister. Fadnvis has understood Uddhav is popular, so he wants to eliminate him from politics.”

But Shiv Sainiks are certain that will not happen. If there is a Thackeray, there is a Shiv Sena; without each other neither exists. So, what about Raj Thackeray who has of late been siding with the BJP? The Shiv Sainiks shrug and point out that Balasaheb himself had declared Uddhav as his true heir and Raj has proved to lack the political acumen of both Balasaheb and Uddhav and is a complete failure in electoral politics.

So where does that leave the party and Uddhav Thackeray? Fighting a battle for survival that they will not cede in a hurry.

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Published: 28 Jun 2022, 8:14 PM