Battle of the Senas: Shinde's overkill vs Uddhav's comeback bid on the cards
With a clear signal from the top BJP leadership to undermine the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction, Shinde would opt for an overkill to please his masters.
The political climate seems to be heating up in Maharashtra post the Election Commission of India (ECI) verdict which paved the way for Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to take over Shiv Sena.
Immediately after the order, Shiv Sena's national executive appointed Shinde as its chief. The party took possession of the Shiv Sena office in the Legislative Assembly and Parliament. Next, will be taking over of the Shiv Sena Bhavan in Dadar as well as all the district and taluka-level offices in the state. Thereafter, this Sena will try to mobilize the A to Z of the party under the leadership of Shinde before the election season starts.
The next attempt of the Shinde-led party would be to gain control of the bank accounts of Shiv Sena. With a clear signal from the top BJP leadership to undermine the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction, Shinde would opt for an overkill to please his masters.
To start with, it would be eyeing to bring the staunch Uddhav loyalists into its fold before the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) election. The BMC poll--expected to be announced soon-- would be the acid test for Shinde and the Bow & Arrow symbol. Will the symbol baffle the voters is anyone's guess. Moreover, Shinde's dominance outside the Thane district is disputable.
In most of the Vidhan Sabha constituencies in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena has sizeable votes. The popularity of both sides can be gauged in the Kasba Peth and Chinchwad Assembly by-elections in Pune district. The byelections, scheduled to be held on February 26, were necessitated due to the recent death of sitting BJP MLAs - Mukta Tilak from Kasba Peth and Laxman Jagtap from Chinchwad.
Last year, the Uddhav faction had pocketed the Andheri East bypoll.
Like Balasaheb Thackeray, Uddhav too runs the party from Matoshree. But he clearly lacks Balasaheb's charisma and influence. Four years after Balasaheb's demise, Uddhav fought spiritedly against the ruling BJP as well as Congress, and NCP and regained power in BMC in 2017. This was not the first time he was fighting a major election on his own. At the height of the Modi wave in 2014, Shiv Sena had to break its alliance with the BJP in the Vidhan Sabha election and his party won 63 seats (total seats 288) in a four-cornered contest. BJP won 122 seats in the poll and Devendra Fadnavis went on to become the Chief Minister.
This time the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) allies Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) appear to be standing firmly with Uddhav. With their backing, the Thackerays will have to slug it out on the streets, not to mention about the legal battle that would continue in the courts.
Uddhav Thackeray, due to his health issues would not be able to reach out to the people as he would have wished to, but his son Aditya would chip in. Uddhav would also think of sending his younger son Tejas to the voters. He would use the Thackeray legacy and Marathi Asmita (pride), among other factors, to the hilt. To sum up, the Shinde vs Uddhav battle is not over yet.
Sunil Chawake is a Maharashtra-based analyst.