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News Analysis | Rane’s controverisal remark sees Aaditya Thackeray's Yuva Sena come into its own

Shiv Sena MP and Yuva Sena chief Aditya Thackeray. File   | Photo Credit: -

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and Union Minister Narayan Rane’s ‘slapgate’ contretemps has seen a renascence of the Shiv Sena’s supposedly dormant aggressive spirit.

Within hours of Mr. Rane’s controversial statement (of August 23) that he “would have slapped Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray” for allegedly forgetting the year of India's Independence, Sena workers, mainly from the party’s youth wing, the Yuva Sena, led strident agitations at several places in Maharashtra, pelted the BJP offices with stones and squared-off with its activists on the streets of Mumbai.

According to observers, the most important takeaway from the ‘slapgate’ fiasco is the coming of the Yuva Sena, led by Mr. Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya Thackeray, into its own.

It also marks a forceful assertion of a party whose combative, street-fighting disposition was thought to have ‘mellowed’ under Mr. Uddhav Thackeray’s leadership.

“After [Sena founder] Bal Thackeray’s death in 2012, a section of the senior Sena leadership were convinced the party’s fortunes would plummet under Uddhav Thackeray, and accordingly had begun subtly voicing such opinions. However, not only did Mr. Thackeray manage a creditable performance in the 2014 Assembly election, but successfully shift alliances after the 2019 poll. Now, the Chief Minister has succeeded in silencing his bitterest adversary Narayan Rane by unleashing the Yuva Sena who have been showcased as the next generation of Shiv Sainiks,” says Vivek Bhavsar, a senior Mumbai-based political analyst and long-time Sena watcher.

According to sources, soon after Mr. Rane’s intemperate remarks, a night meeting between the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and the Home Minister had allegedly decided on Mr. Rane’s arrest on grounds that the most vicious Sena baiter had finally crossed the moral Rubicon.

Yuva Sena Wing workers protest against Union Minister Narayan Rane near his residence at Juhu in Mumbai on August 24. File

Yuva Sena Wing workers protest against Union Minister Narayan Rane near his residence at Juhu in Mumbai on August 24. File   | Photo Credit: PTI


Accordingly, the Yuva Sena was mobilised to coordinate not only the street agitations and fight off the BJP and Mr. Rane’s supporters, but to ensure that the Union Minister was brought from Ratnagiri before the court in Mahad in Raigad without incident.

BMC poll

“The incident has showcased the potential of the Yuva Sena led by Aaditya Thackeray, not just to the party’s detractors like Mr. Rane and the BJP, but to the senior leadership within the Sena. Furthermore, by restoring confidence among the ground-level workers, this rallying of the Sena is likely to hold the party in good stead in the crucial Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) civic body poll next year,” says Mr. Bhavsar.

The 2017 BMC poll left the Sena with a tenuous majority (97 of the 227 seats) with the BJP dramatically improving its performance to come a close second (with 82 seats). The BMC, which is India’s richest civic body, is the Sena’s chief cash-cow and the lifeline of the party’s existence in the State.

However, the Rane fiasco could affect the BJP's chances this time, according to other analysts.

Gujarati votebank

“The Gujarati votebank in Mumbai has been the traditional constituency of the BJP in the city. However, after this incident, these voters may defer more to the Sena, which has shown that nobody in the BJP may henceforth take the Chief Minister for granted. Furthermore, the Sena, too, has been assiduously wooing the Gujarati voters since this year with an eye on the 2022 BMC poll,” said an election watcher.

When all has been said, the person to come off worst in the ‘slapgate’ is undoubtedly Mr. Rane. For all his bluster, the Konkan strongman stands exposed as a weak local leader whose regional influence appears to be rapidly diminishing.

In the 2014 Maharashtra Assembly election, Mr. Rane, who ruled his fiefdom of Kudal in Sindhudurg district for six terms as MLA, was trounced comprehensively by the Sena’s Vaibhav Naik — his former protégé — by a margin of more than 10,000 votes which ultimately led to a Sena renascence in the Konkan region.

Despite Mr. Rane’s long shadow over the coastal Malwan belt, a surge of popular anger against his strong-arm tactics coupled with sanction to controversial ecological projects in verdant Sindhudurg led to his undoing.

“When he exited the Sena in 2005 after his bitter fall-out with Mr. Uddhav Thackeray, Mr. Rane had 11 MLAs with him, of which three subsequently won the by-polls. However, as is Rane’s wont, he managed to alienate his aides who subsequently turned against him. Following his exit from the Congress in 2017, his induction into the BJP has not been a smooth ride either,” observes Mr. Bhavsar.

He says that Mr. Rane has remained an “incorrigible Shiv Sainik”, unable to act with restraint despite been given the important portfolio of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).

“Firstly, throughout his Yatra, Mr. Rane’s sole purpose has been to target Mr. Uddhav Thackeray and rail against the Sena rather than giving information about Centre’s achievements which was the objective of the rally. Secondly, he is in danger of squandering away the potential of the MSME portfolio and the benefits it can bring to his constituency [in the Konkan] and the BJP. Earlier, when the Sena was in alliance with the BJP, leaders like Arvind Sawant were given the Heavy Industry portfolio, which is not of much use in influencing local constituents. But the BJP, which is banking on Mr. Rane to regain the Konkan from the Sena, has now to contend with the fact that the former Shiv Sainik has in fact remained an unreformed Shiv Sainik at the core, prone to prickly personal rivalry,” Mr. Bhavsar says.

The 2019 Assembly election saw Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party holding sway in Raigad, while the Sena firmly entrenching itself in Ratnagiri and other areas of the Konkan.

“After the incident, Rane keeps saying that he had a major hand in building the Sena. In reality, ‘slapgate’ has shown him to be far less a figure of national importance than a local leader struggling to retain hold over his constituency. He must understand that the Sena, which he claims he helped build, is a bigger and more solid brand than himself,” said a Sena leader, requesting anonymity.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 11:08:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/new-analysis-ranes-controverisal-remark-sees-aaditya-thackerays-yuva-sena-come-into-its-own/article36301192.ece

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