Other States

‘Reformist’ Hindutva and Uddhav Thackeray

A file photo of Bal Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray.

A file photo of Bal Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray. | Photo Credit: PTI

In 2019, Uddhav tried to checkmate BJP’s Hindutva juggernaut by providing an alternative, reformist, Hindutva in politics. In the first assembly session in 2019 he attended as chief minister, Uddhav admitted that his party had made a mistake by mixing religion and politics. Insisting that he and his party were staunch believers and supporters of Hindutva politics, Uddhav made a differentiation between BJP and his brand of Hindutva.

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Using religion to stoke the fire and win power is not my Hindutva, Uddhav said in an interview with party mouthpiece Saamana in 2020. Spreading misinformation or misusing (Hindutva) to gain power is not my Hindutva, said Uddhav. All governments in India including BJP’s at the Centre are being run within the framework of the Indian Constitution and not based on Hindutva, he said.

Uddhav installed a board in Mantralaya a couple of years ago that explains his version of Hindutva. The board enumerates 10 formulas propagated by reformist Maharashtra saint Gadge Maharaj, which include giving the poor access to roti, kapda, makaan (food, clothing, shelter), employment, education and healthcare.

However, the hardcore Shiv Sena cadre is finding it difficult to digest Uddhav’s reformist Hindutva and the BJP is trying to woo this disgruntled section. The BJP attempts to scuttle Uddhav’s alternative Hindutva and his hold on Shiv Sena by promoting rebel Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde as the heir to Bal Thackeray’s Hindutva. After taking the oath as chief minister, with the help of the BJP, Shinde is already speaking BJP’s Hindutva language.

The dual challenge before Uddhav is to keep the flock together, convince them about his version of Hindutva, while also challenging the BJP’s approach to the ideology.

Term report

Uddhav’s handling of the pandemic is something that his supporters highlight. Constant communication with the masses and decentralising of decision-making during the peak of the pandemic helped Maharashtra handle the crisis efficiently. “For the majority of the time the Uddhav-led government was busy handling COVID-19 situation and so other projects and schemes were on backburner,” says a senior revenue department official. “He decentralised the decision-making process and trusted bureaucrats. He had no administration experience but he built close relations with his officials to get the work done,” said the official.

At 30, Uddhav became active in Shiv Sena when his maverick cousin Raj was already seen as the political heir to Bal Thackeray. Raj never believed in Uddhav’s capacity to lead the party

The writer is Deputy Editor, The Hindu BusinessLine, and author of ‘Trail of the Tiger: Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray: A Journey’ (2021).

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2022 6:47:47 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/reformist-hindutva-and-uddhav-thackeray/article65602178.ece