Narendra Modi is the setting sun, says Uddhav Thackeray

Questions BJP's Hindutva that allows Hindus to die in Manipur and Kashmir

Shiv Sena Foundation Day celebration (photo courtesy @ShivSenaUBT_/Twitter)
Shiv Sena Foundation Day celebration (photo courtesy @ShivSenaUBT_/Twitter)

Sujata Anandan

For 56 straight years, the Shiv Sena, established by Bal Thackeray, held its Foundation Day celebrations at the iconic Shanmukhananda Hall, which was always packed out and spilled over with Shiv Sainiks eager to hear Thackeray set the annual goals for his supporters every year on June 19. He usually skirted political issues which were reserved for the other big annual party event — its Dussehra rally at Shivaji Park.

But now with the split in Bal Thackeray's party, one faction known as Shiv Sena (Uddhav Bal Thackeray) party and the other as simply Shiv Sena but referred for distinguishing it from the former as Shinde’s Shiv Sena, there were doubts about the continuity of this tradition.

After splitting the party in June last year, post the foundation day celebrations, the two factions had slugged it out over their first show of strength on Dussehra day in October 2022. After several attempts by the Eknath Shinde—Devendra Fadnavis government to deny Uddhav Thackeray the use of Shivaji Park, a public property, the former chief minister won the battle in the Bombay High Court, on the grounds of maintaining a half-century-old tradition, and Shinde had to reluctantly move his own show to the Bandra Reclamation grounds.

As the foundation day approached this year, the city was flooded with more posters and banners of the SSS with doubts that the SS (UBT) would be able to withstand the pulling out of all the stops by Shinde. However, Uddhav Thackeray once again pulled off the unexpected by holding his event at the Shanmukhananda Hall, run by a private South Indian Trust, while Shinde had to move his own event to the popular wedding venue of the Nesco grounds in Goregaon, a western suburb.

Shanmukhananda Hall is popular with political parties holding closed-door events but it is also an entertainment venue holding song and dance shows. Packing it to overflowing with his supporters helped Uddhav Thackeray to keep his head above water but this time instead of being a mere event to set the agenda for party workers, Uddhav turned his meeting into a full-scale war with the BJP over Hindutva.

Emphasising that the hall was seeing the 57th  foundation day while Goregaon was witnessing its first, the former chief minister once again stressed on the BJP’s pet rant against him — his betrayal of Hindutva.

So far Uddhav Thackeray has been attempting to redefine his own party’s Hindutva as an ideology which allows you to worship your own gods but does not need you to kill the non-believers. That redefinition of the Shiv Sena’s own violent ideology in Bal Thackeray’s time has earned him the surprising support of large sections of Muslims in the city that is beginning to worry the BJP greatly. Even Union home minister Amit Shah is now openly targeting him to make public his views on reservations for Muslims, hijab and other pet peeves of his own party — including, strangely, asking him to justify the visit of quite another leader, the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi’s Prakash Ambedkar, recently to Aurangzeb’s grave in Khultabad nearby Aurangabad in the Marathwada region of Maharashtra.

While Uddhav has remained silent on those issues, on Monday he took on the BJP on its own commitment to Hindutva in no uncertain terms. “What kind of Hindutva are they practising when they are allowing Hindus to be killed freely in Kashmir and Manipur?”

Uddhav took on Narendra Modi too without mincing words by describing him as the ‘setting sun’. “He thinks he is the shining sun, doesn’t he? But the sun is setting in Manipur and everywhere else. His famous double engine has got derailed everywhere. Even in Manipur, only one engine (Amit Shah) made it to the station but even that engine soon got derailed.”

There were barbs for the rival faction too, “A whole gang of looters and dacoits has congregated in Goregaon,” he said in reference to not just the fact that his party was ‘stolen’ by Shinde but also alluding to the  BJP’s own allegations that at least five close Shinde supporters are highly corrupt and might be dropped in the next cabinet reshuffle.

Shinde, who put up a huge portrait of Bal Thackeray in the background to emphasise that it was his party he now owned, kept to his theme of describing the founder’s son as a ‘traitor’ to both his father’s party and ideology. ”He betrayed the party by allying with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party,” he said vowing to turn Uddhav Thackeray into “garbage”.

The SS (UBT), however, had portraits of three generations of Thackerays on display — Balasaheb, his son Uddhav and his grandson Aaditya harping on the theme of continuity that holding the event at Shanmukhananda Hall personified.

SS (UBT)’S banners also stressed on loyalty and uniqueness with the new slogan Nishtavanancha kutumbhshohala; Shiv Sena parivar jaga vegla (This is the gathering of unwavering loyalists; the Shiv Sena family stands apart from the world).

Shinde has yet to coin a counter to that. But the war of words is unlikely to end soon.

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