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News analysis | Uddhav’s balancing act between coalition and ideology

Uddhav Thackeray took oath as Chief Minister with six others on November 28.

Uddhav Thackeray took oath as Chief Minister with six others on November 28.   | Photo Credit: PrashantNakwe

The tripartite government in Maharashtra of Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress is full of contradictions, especially when it comes to the ideology.

From travelling to Ayodhya to push for Ram mandir formation to announcing that intermixing of religion with politics was a mistake, Shiv Sena president and Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s shift from hardcore right wing political party to right-of-center is attributed to his new found political allies but also to a realisation that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has left no space to any other hard-line Hindutva party to survive and win polls on its own.

The tripartite government in Maharashtra of Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress is full of contradictions, especially when it comes to the ideology. Mr .Thackeray is adopting a middle-path to ensure that the secular Congress and NCP are not hurt but also not hesitating to announcing Hindutva ideologue V.D. Savarkar as his idol.

“This is out of compulsion to save the government and also because of common aim of three parties to keep (Narendra) Modi and (Amit) Shah out of power. I don’t really think that his secular statements are from his heart. But if this government has to survive, he (Uddhav) will have to play his role exceedingly well,” said Prakash Akolkar, a biographer of the Sena and senior journalist.

Mr. Thackeray’s recent statements are worth noticing. He compared the attack on students by police authorities inside Jamia Millia Islamia University to the massacre by British at Jalianwala Bagh. Replying to the Opposition BJP inside the Assembly, Mr. Thackeray said, “Intermixing of religion and politics was a mistake made in the past. It won’t yield any results.”

Even though he hasn't yet announced that CAA and NRC won't be implemented in Maharashtra, his statements indicated the same. “There will be no discrimination on the basis of caste, race or religion in Maharashtra,” he said. On Monday, he held a meeting of Muslim clerics and announced that no detention centres will be permitted in Maharashtra.

Even while mentioning Savarkar, Mr. Thackeray in a press conference in Nagpur had said that ideologies of Congress and Sena are different and will remain so in future. "But the government is formed on Commons Minimum Program and it is united on that," he had said, replying to a question asked on former Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s comment on Savarkar.

Inside the Assembly, he dug out Savarkar's statement on cow slaughter where the Hindutva ideologue saw cow only as an animal and not god.

“He has realised that hardcore right wing voter is settled with the BJP. What he is trying to do is be more Hindu than Congress and more secular than the BJP,” said Abhay Deshpande, a political commentator who has been following Maharashtra politics for over two decades now.

According to Mr. Deshpande, while trying to position himself as a strong regional player, Mr. Thackeray is playing a balancing act. “He is making himeself Maharashtra’s Nitish Kumar,” said Mr Deshpande, adding that Prashant Kishor is a common thread between both the leaders.

But will it succeed? “Difficult to say today. Balasaheb had the ability to say exactly opposite thing the other day and get away with it without any harm. For Uddhav, unless he performs well as a CM, this act may not yield much,” said Mr. Akolkar.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 8:19:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/news-analysis-uddhav-balancing-act-between-coalition-and-ideology/article30388285.ece

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