Can Shiv Sena re-invent itself is the question
BJP does not need the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra any longer. But can Uddhav Thackeray re-invent the party that had little to offer except Hindu pride?
After having played its hand in the political battlefield for the past few weeks in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena has come to a crossroads at a time when politics of Hindutva has come full circle with deliveries of promises made by the duo on- Article 370, Triple Talaq and the Ram Mandir verdict.
But Shiv Sena continues to stare at an uncertain future because its politics is not one which concerns the daily life of peasants, mill workers, businessman or the common man. It has defined itself deeply and solely on only one agenda, and that is Hindu pride.
In the last term of government that the Shiv Sena shared with the BJP, it had a very limited role to play in the welfare of the electorate that it represented. It did cry foul on several issues and opposed the acts and decisions of Devendra Fadnavis-led government but it still remained in the alliance to suit its convenience. It always pointed to the larger Hindu interest to mask its own inactivity or failings, whenever it was questioned. But today Shiv Sena, which has a bargain in its hand needs political heft more than just a CM’s post for its future survival . But how will it get its mojo back?
It was in the mid-80's that a popular newspaper in Maharashtra then,
'Navakal' published a series of articles based on a book written by communist leader AB Bardhan titled 'Practical Socialism'. The editor of the newspaper, Neelkanth Khadilkar, not only wrote the articles for which a foreward was written by AB Bardhan but also travelled to Soviet Russia to study how socialism had benefitted the Russians and paved the way for them to be a major power in the world.
Balasaheb Thackeray, then as the chief of a fledgeling party, was apparently influenced by the articles of ‘Navakal’ and Bardhan's book. He went on to republish the articles in Shiv Sena's fortnightly magazine 'Marmik'. The articles claimed that the economic success of the Soviet Union was because of discipline and the one-party rule that it had. Thackeray, influenced by Bardhan's ideas, dovetailed the ideas to define his party.
Thackeray however took the religious course and spelt his own vision by stating that even though Soviet Russia is communist, all its citizens are Christians and having one religion is the recipe for its success. Hence all the Hindus of Maharashtra should be united in strengthening the Shiv Sena for its only he and his party that could give the Hindus a progressive future.
This political message that he delivered through 'Marmik' was an instant success and the magazine sold nearly one lakh copies in only a few days. Balasaheb Thackeray then organised a massive rally in Shivaji Maidan, Dadar, Mumbai to propagate his idea. This was the beginning of the Saffron agenda of the Shiv Sena, which thereafter helped it increase its footprint beyond Mumbai and Thane, where in its early days it was only controlling trade unions and municipalities.
However, in 2019 the situation is different from the 80's with the BJP having a firm foothold at the Centre. Besides, BJP’s politics is to deliver on its much promised Hindutva agenda. Then what is the narrative of a state level party like Shiv Sena besides repeating what Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have been saying?
It has had no other social or economic agenda to talk about till date. How long can Shiv Sena survive only on broadcasting the messages from BJP? Moreover, if Uddhav Thackeray is to bring the next generation of Shiv Sena followers under the leadership of his son, then what brand of politics is he going to pursue? Going ahead, why would the BJP need a local Hindutva party in a financially powerful state like Maharashtra where it already has a large footprint?
In the days to come, all eyes will be on Uddhav Thackerey and his ability to reinvent the party and provide a fresh political narrative will be keenly watched.
(This is an opinion piece. Views expressed are the author’s own )