After Bal Thackeray's demise, Shiv Sena faces disintegration

After Bal Thackeray's demise, Shiv Sena faces disintegration

The bells have started tolling for the disintegration of the Shiv Sena, once-the most powerful monolithic political outfit in Mumbai, the commercial capital of the country, post-Bal Thackeray. The state is now all set to witness a massive change in political permutations.

The rumblings in the empire and fiefdom of the Shiv Sena (SS) had started when the party’s authoritarian chief, Bal Thackeray, was lying on death bed; the whine now amplified into a screech searing through the rank and file in the state, is even rattling the “pro-Maharashtra,” movement leaders in Karnataka’s Belgaum.

The party which once relished in its display of lumpen aggression in the media, has now turned like a film actor whose once popular mannerisms get reduced to a “caricature”; in the case of the SS it has been reduced to “soggy fire crackers.”

Notwithstanding the usual hectoring like shouting slogans against Pakistani hockey players or making outrageous statements in recent times, the party cadre has realised that its present leader Uddhav has dissolved its USP, that lay in thriving on fear factor. The Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is waiting in the wings, and so also is the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) to occupy the political space held for decades by the SS, as the saviour of ‘Marathi Manoos.’

In the second week of January, barely two months after Bal Thackeray’s death, the party managers in Nashik finding an uncertain frosty political future of the outfit, have began swimming towards warmer seas with brighter political suns.

The Shiv Sena’s hold in the industrial town Nashik was akin to its clout in Mumbai and other nearby regions. Though in 2012 municipal elections the party was outwitted by its arch-rival MNS which quietly joined hands with the former’s long-time ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to grab power in the municipal body, SS still weilded considerable influence in the region’s political-economy.

This clout in the northern Maharashtra’s politically most influential and powerful town stemmed from the fact that the SS after Mumbai had always considered Nashik as its second fulcrum to leverage political manipulations. And it is precisely for this reason that the recent exodus of its key party manager Sunil Bagul to the NCP along with scores of other party cadres, the spill-over effect has started manifesting in other places like Kolhapur where voices of disgruntlement have started surfacing.

Nashik was the place from where the party had launched its Shiv Udyog Sena (SUS) a sort of private employment exchange, with the help of the now bitter-rival Raj Thackeray. The MNS leader prior to his moving away to launch his own political pad in 2006, was the key person behind the SUS floated to attract unemployed youths into SS.

Key reason

While the reason behind using Nashik as the headquarters by the SS was manifold, the key reason lay in the strong union base in the region’s industrial belt. The Shiv Sena with its blood-stained chequered history in breaking unions, was encouraged by the industrial bosses and the party soon had its leadership full of labour contractors and real estate agents.

Top labour contractor Sunil Bagul was soon made district party chief and he, along with Raj Thackeray whose interest was solely in the real estate, controlled the SS fortunes in the entire Khandesh region.

In 2006 soon after the creation of the MNS, a massive chunk of labour contractors and real estate agents shifted their alliance towards Raj Thackeray and this showed in 2007 municipal polls when the newly floated party opened the account by bagging 12 seats in the 122 strong body.

The win helped the MNS gained more cadres but the NCP also had managed to make forays into the region hitherto considered as the battle ground of the Congress, SS and BJP. While MNS cherished the aim of cornering the SS vote-bank in the region, NCP leaders have been using the industrial city as a litmus test for its own leadership.

Former SS leader and now the fast emerging powerful leader in the NCP Chhagan Bhujbal, who acts as the guardian minister for Nashik district, has trodden on several toes of the established leadership in the party.

With just a year to go for the state Assembly elections, NCP leaders like Sharad Pawar's nephew Ajit are eyeing the coveted chair of chief minister in case the party emerges as the most powerful force. Bhujbal is the main thorn in Ajit Pawar’s aspiration and in the last week’s coup in the  SS camp, the Maratha lobby in Nashik always sore at the OBC leader Bhujbal’s rise and ambitions roped in Bagul along with SS party leaders into the fold.

For Ajit Pawar the coup helped him in not only clipping the wings of Bhujbal but at the same time also demolish the SS base by covertly supporting MNS whose help may be sought in 2014 polls.

The MNS leader Raj Thackeray has also been spotted wooing Sharad Pawar as the former knows that it was latter’s patronage that had helped his uncle Bal Thackeray come out from several tight corners unscathed. And Raj also knows that after Bal Thackeray in Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar has always been considered as the “saviour of the Marathi Manoos.”

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