Thackeray's 'son stroke' leaves Shiva Sena in tatters

Thackeray's 'son stroke' leaves Shiva Sena in tatters

In the case of the Shiv Sena, it has not been able to outthink its own former leader, Raj Thackeray, and it is from this single source that the threat to the future of the Sena emanates. At this time, it is as if the party has lost its wits and is running in circles to wrest the initiative back from the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.  

Bal Thackeray, given his love for son Uddhav, has assigned him the executive tasks of running the party, overriding the claims of Raj Thackeray, seen within even the Sena as more competent. That explains why the allegiance of the Sena cadre and even some elders to the ruling Thackerays is becoming tenuous.

However, Raj has converted his grievance into action. He knows that it was earlier widely assumed that he would be the natural successor to his uncle’s legacy, that Uddhav’s anointment was a surprise but was accepted because none then dare question Bal Thackeray’s choice. As events showed, that was a poor preference.

The speed with which Bal Thackeray’s, and thereby the Sena’s influence, wanes would be dependent on Uddhav’s wrong, and Raj Thackeray’s right, moves. Bal and Uddhav Thackeray have in fact become reckless in their counter-moves to contain Raj and his ambitions.

Marathi agenda

Having said that, Raj has what the senior always had: determination, charisma, ideology, but that alone would not take him far in neutralising the Sena. There are reasons like how the present Raj agenda of pushing the cause of the Marathi manoos has only circumscribed his vaulting ambitions. The Marathi agenda has appeal only in urban areas where migrants have made inroads. It, however, has a good leverage for the initial assault.

The Marathi agenda does not have such a wide appeal across Maharashtra as Hindutva has had in association with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Only where the locals have felt economically threatened has the MNS’s thrusts paid dividends, as in Mumbai, the haven for migrants. Raj’s programme is viable only for now and if really hopes to diminish the Sena, he would have to work out a fine combo of street politics and constructive legislative strategies.  

The pace at which Bal Thackeray declines in his appeal and reach, including electoral, is again tied to the fortunes of Uddhav who has to make his choices. Things are not going to be easier for him. Senior Thackeray’s advancing age and enfeeblement, and the circumstances further altered by Uddhav’s own desire to be hands-on could trammel his ability to best Raj.

That the editor of Saamna¸ not an independent newspaper but a party – really, B Thackeray’s – mouthpiece can write on his own that Maharashtrians had ‘stabbed the party’ in the back with nothing being done to change that, is a sign of the party founder’s visible declining control. Anything that is written by Raut is now considered B Thackeray’s views. Recently, Manohar Joshi too said that the issue of Sachin Tendulkar raised by the party “left a bad taste’ is another such indicator.

Which means Uddhav would inherit a party where the kow-towing leaders who sat in council with the elder Thackeray but heeded his dictates unquestioningly could spring surprises. That could change the entire paradigm of a party where dictates have to be followed and leave him with his hands full to the exclusion of other issues.
 
Weak Sena

The weakening of the Sena was first evidenced when Narayan Rane thumbed his nose at it, and Raj walked out and challenged it with no reprisals. The next blow that could come would be from Raj again when the elections to the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai are held within the year. Capitalising on the gains in the recent elections – ensuring defeats of the Sena candidates to Lok Sabha and winning his own 13 seats across the state – he is expected to put up a formidable fight for the spoils of Mumbai. Should Raj succeed – which means a marked failure of Uddhav – then the tipping point in the fortunes of the Shiv Sena arrives.

Once that happens, Bal Thackeray can be written off and a question mark put on the Shiv Sena for the entire matrix could change. MNS would thrive on Sena desertions.

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