MUMBAI: When Aaditya Thackeray, the third scion of the Thackerays, entered politics and walked inside the Assembly as an MLA from Worli last year, many thought the Shiv Sena had transformed itself. The old style of threatening opponents and the Marathi Manoos exclusivist agenda appeared a thing of the past. But the recent incidents involving an assault on a retired naval officer and part-demolition of Kangana Ranaut’s office have belied those hopes. The Sena is back to its game, analysts say.
Sena strongman Bal Thackeray had built his political career and expanded his party on hate and bigotry. Thackeray first targeted south Indians with a slogan of Bajao pungi, Bhagavo lungi, then north Indians, Muslims, Dalits and others to consolidate his position among staunch Marathi and Hindu voters in Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra. Vaibhav Purandare, the author of ‘Bal Thackeray and the rise of Shiv Sena,’ says Shiv Sena remains stuck in its old mirror image at a time when an emerging Maharashtra gives precedence to jobs, health and environment. The basic idea behind bringing in Aaditya and sewing up an alliance with secular parties was to project an appearance of reinvention.
Bal Thackeray was a charismatic leader who would get away with his controversial statements. But the current leadership is neither as much charismatic nor in the Opposition,” says Purandare.
“The Sena has to realize that it is the ruling party, and that it cannot create a law and order problem.
“It is not always necessary to react to every statement and action directed against you. During Bal Thackeray’s time, Sena’s hooliganism was of a different kind— the Sainiks would threaten the government or a local corporation on popular issues”.
Shiv Sena’s image problem
The problem, he says, is that Shiv Sena is stuck with the image issue. “If they stop reacting strongly, the people would say the party is losing its grip over Mumbai. And if they react strongly as they did in the Kangna Ranaut case, then they have to face public criticism. They have to carefully decide the way forward,” Purandare pointed out.
Raju Parulekar, senior journalist and writer who has seen the rise and fall and rise of the Shiv Sena, says the current approach of the leadership will surely help the party to remain in the dominant position.
He says political party workers need catharsis. “Sena workers achieve it by showing off power and doing something openly. Then, Sena’s cadre is different from the Congress’ and the NCP’s. They need to be charged up. They have a history of bouncing back by their street smart politics,” Parulekar said.
A former Shiv Sena minister who is a close aide of CM Uddhav Thackeray says the party never starts a showdown, “but if some comes its way, then it doesn’t spare”.
“Kangna Ranaut is a film actor. No sane person would tolerate her remarks against the Mumbai city and Maharashtra. She called Mumbai Pak occupied Kashmir (PoK), Pakistan, and even called the BMC workers as Babur’s army. There is a limit. So we decided to give it back. Those who stay in glass houses should not throw stones at others, simple,” he said.
Kangana part of BJP’s design
Marathi writer and blogger Avinash Usha Vasant says the BJP wants to snatch Sena’s dominance over Mumbai and Bollywood by exploiting the Sushant Singh Rajput case. “Kangana Ranaut is one of the persons who are a part of this design. Shiv Sena has the strongest union in Bollywood which can make or break any film. The BJP is trying to make inroads into the film world by targeting a few Bollywood
people,” said Avinash.
But he says the demography of Mumbai is changing fast. “Some decades back, Marathas accounted for nearly 60 per cent of voters. Today, that number is only 28 per cent. A cursory glance at the name plates of big housing societies can give us the real picture of Mumbai.”“So, Shiv Sena has to not only project itself in the reinvention mode, but it has to reinvent itself in reality— and quickly before the people’s trust in it evaporates and the Congress and NCP pull the plug,” Purandare said.
Next generation, same Sena!
- The BMC, controlled by Shiv Sena, razed down ‘illegal construction at’ actor Kangana Ranaut’s office at Pali Hill, in Bandra (top)
- A retired Navy officer was beaten by some goons on Friday for allegedlly sharing a cartoon on CM Uddhav Thackeray (above left)
- Multiple FIRs were filed against Sunaina Holey for allegedlly making derogatory comments against Uddhav and Aaditya Thackeray
- In December, a man from Wadala claimed that his head was shaved by Sena workers for posts against Uddhav Thackeray (above right)