By Sushil Kutty
At the heart of politics is cowardice. Okay, foolhardiness. Take demonetization, for instance. It was a reckless display of authoritarianism, unbridled power, when the BJP-led NDA Government tipped its hat to its Prime Minister and forgot that in a democracy, collective decisions are the norm and the decision to demonetize was patently dictatorial and wrong. Now, we have the Election Commission, “guided by urgency”, as one news outlet put it, taking decisions and not being answerable.
The EC’s “interim call”, directing the “two Shiv Senas” to take on new names, and fresh election symbols, was because “it”, the Election Commission, did not have the answers, nor the courage of conviction to take steadfast decisions without care as to who reacted how? The Election Commission took its own sweet time to approach a decision and then made “urgency” the excuse to not make a decision! The headlines “EC freezes…” and “EC bars…” were infructuous. If anybody froze at the brink, it was the Election Commission. The upcoming assembly bypoll in Andheri East cannot be cited as an excuse for urgency, much less as a reason to stall!
Now, what happens? By asking both factions of the Shiv Sena to find new names and fresh election symbols, the EC has bought time, but for whom, and is the EC working to a design? Doubt and deception cloud the EC decision, which was essentially an act of inaction. The EC is a coward, reluctant to recognize one of the two Sena factions as the “real” Sena. The pretext of “interim order” cannot be because the EC is lazy and lethargic.
Come to think of it, both the Election Commission and the Supreme Court appear to be in no hurry to break the ‘Sena’ deadlock. Instead, the EC, at least, expects applause for not making a “final determination”. The EC decision to freeze the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena’s ‘bow and arrow’ poll symbol smacks of partisanship, when natural justice is on the side of the Sena headed by Uddhav Thackeray.
Instead, what we saw Saturday, October 8, was blind injustice pervading perverse politics. Eknath Shinde and his band of breakaway MLAs left the Shiv Sena, which was still being led by Uddhav Thackeray, and not the other way around. In fact, even when Uddhav Thackeray resigned the CM’s post and the MVA government collapsed, the Shiv Sena was a single whole and answering solely to legitimate party president Uddhav Thackeray.
People may like him or dislike him, some even have irrevocable differences, but no denizen of Maharashtra would refute Uddhav Thackeray’s claim on the Shiv Sena, even if purely because the party’s founder Balasaheb Thackeray towers over the party as a larger than life father-figure even in death, and his family cannot be denied proprietorship of the party just because an interloper proved himself more resourceful and on the right side of the powers that be.
In fact, the word “faction” doesn’t apply. There is only the “real” Shiv Sena and a set of former Shiv Sena MLAs. The Shinde group has no right to the “real” Shiv Sena. The impression being given is that the decisions to “freeze name and poll symbol” left both the real Shiv Sena and the group of mercenary MLAs equally affected. The reality is different. Freezing both party name and poll symbol has left the “real” Shiv Sena in disarray, and the Shinde group has already claimed victory of sorts.
As of October 8, 2022, there is no Shiv Sena, there is only a nameless party shorn off its identity. There’s a little solace that neither parties to the dispute will be allowed to use ‘Shiv Sena’ or the ‘bow and arrow’. The order that the original Shiv Sena should choose a party name is a slap on the face of the Shiv Sena founder, the late Balasaheb Thackeray. Thanks to the machinations of the BJP, the Shiv Sena is today nameless, with no identity of its own.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis must have slept the entire night October 8, satisfied that without the Shiv Sena name and the party symbol ‘bow and arrow’, Uddhav Thackeray and Balasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sena wouldn’t find the Andheri bypoll easy to win. The UT-led Shiv Sena submitted symbols trident, burning torch, and rising Sun to the EC on October 10, plus three alternate party names.
CM Shinde and his bunch of MLAs were still to submit their three names and new party symbol alternatives to the EC. Uddhav Thackeray’s three new names for the Shiv Sena are “Shiv Sena Balasaheb Thackeray, Shiv Sena Balasaheb Prabodhankar Thackeray, and Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray”, all of them a mouthful and carrying forward the Thackeray name, which—if the Shinde group got the hint—is out of bounds for it!
As for the Shiv Sena’s poll symbol, the three replacement-candidates suggested are “rising Sun, burning torch (mashaal), and the trident”. Uddhav Thackeray wants the name and poll symbol finalized as early as possible. That is because winning the bypoll will be, by far, the most emphatic retort to those hell bent on appropriating the Shiv Sena for themselves. For Uddhav Thackeray, the party symbol is not as important as the party name. Clearly, the Election Commission was aware of this when it froze both, name and poll symbol, of the Shiv Sena. The Shinde group had neither a name nor a poll symbol to start with. (IPA Service)