Warrior beauties await the return of rebels as Shiv Sainiks rally round Thackeray

There is a groundswell of support, sympathy and solidarity for the beleaguered Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray among the Sena supporters

Warrior beauties await the return of rebels as Shiv Sainiks rally round Thackeray
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Santoshee Gulabkali Mishra

An amused Bal Thackeray had called them ‘Rana Ranginis’ ( warrior beauties), women who supported him and the Shiv Sena. Women have remained a major support base of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra—by far the better and stronger half.

Thackeray Sr had not expected much from the women beyond filling up the 30% seats reserved for women in local bodies. But when the men appeared reluctant to engage in rioting, the women were the ones who egged them on. They provided protective cover against the police, stood vigil at night when the men slept after a long day rioting! Thackeray might have expected them to cook and clean but they went much beyond his expectations, prompting him to call them ‘Rana Ranginis’, only half in jest. Since then the women have been a pillar of strength for the Shiv Sena.

The women have rallied round Uddhav Thackeray in the last few days, especially after he delivered an emotional address on Facebook and left the Chief Minister’s residence though he remains the chief minister. Weeping and hysterical women travelled from all corners of Mumbai to show their solidarity with the leader. Eknath Shinde, they said, might have the MLAs with him but they were with Uddhav Thackeray.

Parallels with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis who had refused to vacate the CM’s residence, organised Yagnas and rites at night and got himself sworn in for 48 hours early in the morning after the last election were drawn. And the women made no secret of their allegiance to Thackeray Jr as he appeared to have lost support of a majority of his MLAs.

It was therefore an unusual and a moving sight to see Shiv Sainiks streaming to Matoshree in Bandra on Wednesday evening to show their solidarity with Uddhav Thackeray.

Arvind Bhosale, a Sena functionary said, “Shiv Sena is not just a political party for the Shiv Sainiks. It is a dream woven by our founder Balasaheb Thackeray. Shiv Sainiks look up to the Thackerays and it is difficult, if not impossible, to shake off the place the Thackerays have in the heart of Shiv Sainiks.”

Bhosale said he cannot imagine of a Shiv Sena without the Thackerays or their place taken by anyone else. “These MLAs have been misguided for sure and they should come back or else Shiv Sainiks will not forgive them,” he said.

Sena supporters across Maharashtra have indeed flooded Uddhav Thackeray with messages of support. “What Shinde has done is wrong, but if he returns Saheb (Uddhav) will certainly allow him to continue in the party. But if he crosses the red line, we won't let him rule the state. This is our state, nobody will be allowed to overrule the Thackerays here,” said an irate SS supporter as others blackened a hoarding bearing the photograph of one of the rebels.

“We will not forgive the rebels. Balasaheb Thackeray and Anand Dighe were always clear that ‘gaddars (traitors) would never receive a pardon in the Sena,” said another.

Shiv Sainik Sanjay Lakhnani in a letter to one of the rebel MLAs Sanjay Shirsath bluntly wrote that Shiv Sainiks were disappointed over the conduct of the MLA from Sambhaji Nagar (Aurangabad).

"How could you (MLA) forget that after winning the election, you had become an integral part of the government? We Shiv Sainiks ensure that our candidates win in the election. Behind every MLA there are thousands of Shiv Sainiks who ensure that they win. We will again ensure in the next election that our party’s nominee wins with a higher margin. For us, the Thackeray word is more than enough."

The groundswell of support and sympathy for Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra explains why BJP leaders are so quiet and why the rebel MLAs were whisked off to Assam, away from the reach of Marathi media and their own family members.

What happens when the rebels return remains to be seen.

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Published: 24 Jun 2022, 1:15 PM