Will the Sena shed its skin?

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:33 pm IST

Published - April 15, 2015 12:25 am IST

Whether it is the vada pav protest by its activists against > Shobhaa De or the provocative article penned by its MP > Sanjay Raut urging disenfranchisement of Muslims, the Shiv Sena seems to be returning to an intolerant form of Marathi chauvinistic politics. But the Sena is > not alone with this brand of politics : Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is also a claimant for the same political space, and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Maharashtra unit is doing its best to be seen as the foremost champion of Marathi language and culture. The Devendra Fadnavis government’s > “diktat” to multiplexes to allot prime-time slots for Marathi cinema, its lobbying for classical language status for Marathi, and the celebration of the Jnanpith for writer Bhalchandra Nemade are all part of the BJP’s efforts to be seen as an alternative, not only to the Congress but also to the Sena. Without doubt, the Sena was feeling the build-up of pressure from its rivals and its allies in equal measure. After the demise of founder Bal Thackeray, the Sena was on the threshold of a defining change: many predicted that the party would collapse after Thackeray, or would split vertically with a section joining the more strident MNS. But the soft-spoken Uddhav Thackeray held the party together with his aggressive leadership style, and toured the State extensively before the Assembly election, connecting with its own mass base and stressing on the core issues that have traditionally defined the party. The Sena was thus able to hold its own against a resurgent BJP, which was riding the crest of a Modi wave.

But, despite the recent successes of its proven chauvinistic methods, there is a strong churn within the Shiv Sena as Uddhav Thackeray’s son Aaditya emerges as a forceful leader. Aaditya has been propagating a certain development agenda, and talking of expanding the Shiv Sena nationally. His campaign against destruction of green cover at the Aarey Milk Colony for a Metro project and his call for greater participation of citizens in the Mumbai Development Plan played a role in Chief Minister Fadnavis staying the implementation of these projects. As Aaditya assumes a greater role in the party and a line of second-generation Sena leaders takes charge, the Sena should shed its old skin and embrace the change within. Otherwise, the party would find it difficult to manage its relations with the BJP, its partner in government both at the Centre and in the State. And, in its efforts to continue to appeal to its old support base, the party might fail to win any new converts from among the youthful middle class of Maharashtra.

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