By Sushil Kutty
It is not easy to be Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray. The head of the vestiges of the Shiv Sena founded by Balasaheb Thackeray is being constantly tested by the disqualified Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and it has become difficult for Uddhav to keep proving his secular credentials at every turn of the road while at the same time assure his Hindutva vote-bank that he was still a Veer Savarkar fan, if not a fanatic. The former Maharashtra Chief Minister was once again forced to warn the Congress of the consequences of demeaning Vinayak Veer Savarkar for the Maha Vikas Aghadi, of which the Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray Shiv Sena (UBT) is a constituent.
UBT will overlook a mistake once, forgive a second breach. But not after that, especially not when every next breach of trust takes the UBT closer to the existential. Is the Congress listening? Mallikarjun Kharge is Congress President, but is Mallikarjun Kharge the commander-in-chief? It does not help Kharge that the Congress is an amalgamation of diverse voices; which, unfortunately, also does not help the constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, of which the UBT Shiv Sena is a constituent.
Most certainly not, when Kharge cannot guarantee an end to the Savarkar-baiting indulged in by the Congress party’s all-powerful Gandhi; whose oft-repeated Savarkar remarks have become an embarrassment for Uddhav Thackeray, to write off or defend. Everytime ‘Veer’ Savarkar’s ‘veerta’ is questioned, and ridiculed, UBT bleeds votes.
Especially, when the remarks are made by the man at the centre of the current political churning in the country. The gentleman who has a mind of his own. Uddhav Thackeray wakes up every morning praying he wouldn’t hear the dreadful words “My name is not Savarkar, I won’t apologise”. But there is no guarantee, this man not only does not apologise, he makes it a point to shout it to the world.
Uddhav Thackeray has warned of “fissures in the Maharashtra opposition alliance” if the disqualified Congress leader refused to put a stop to “insulting our God”. “I want to tell Rahul Gandhi that we have come together, that’s right, we have come together to save democracy and (the) Constitution in this country. But do not make any statements that will create fissures. They (BJP) are trying to provoke you, if we miss this time, then our country will surely go towards autocracy.”
That is as straight and direct any head of a political party can get. The problem is the elected President of the Congress cannot enforce his writ on the party. And he himself is at the vanguard of making a demigod out of an idol. The MVA has been a viable alliance since 2019 when the Congress, the Shiv Sena and the NCP formed the government in Maharashtra. The MVA did not break even after the Shiv Sena split and the government fell. But, now, here was somebody unwittingly doing his best to break the MVA for good.
Balasaheb Thackeray laid the foundations of a hard right political party that drew its strength and its votes from the Hindutva brand of Hinduism. And he made no bones of it, or excuses. On the contrary, he proclaimed it. In fact, when the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance broke, the Shiv Sena bragged it was the “original Hindutva party” which taught the BJP the basics of “Hindutva”. That claim was challenged when ‘UT’ joined the MVA. Now, the Congress party’s MFL (most favoured leader) was after it.
Rahul Gandhi had tested UBT when his Bharat Jodo Yatra was passing through Maharashtra and the then Wayanad MP could not hold himself from taking potshots at Savarkar, the Shiv Sena’s “god”. Then, too, there was uproar, but more from the BJP. In fact, the Sena’s Sanjay Raut had joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra.
But, this time, it’s different. The Shiv Sena cannot risk its core vote-bank to the whims of a man who does not seem to care for the consequences, and how they will affect the chances of his party’s alliance partners. Instead, the refrain “my name is not Savarkar. My name is Gandhi and Gandhi doesn’t apologise” was paraded all over again.
Savarkar is the idol of millions of Shiv Sainiks who have no love lost for Rahul Gandhi and might not even care what Prime Minister Narendra Modi was doing in the belly of an aircraft owned by the billionaire Gautam Adani. For the Shiv Sainiks, Savarkar is a fellow Maharashtrian and “idol”; insulting Savarkar is taken as “personal”.
Uddhav Thackeray spoke of the “unimaginable tortures” Savarkar faced in the Andaman cellular jail. “I want to tell Rahul Gandhi that you walked from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, Sanjay Raut walked with you, (and) we are with you. But I want to tell Rahul Gandhi openly that this fight is for saving democracy. I want to tell Rahul Gandhi that Savarkar is our God, we won’t tolerate his insult. We will not tolerate this at all.”
If that doesn’t save the MVA from breaking, nothing will. Opposition unity for 2024 depends on leaving Savarkar-bashing to the future. For now, there are other larger-than-life rivals to look out for, and hit out at. (IPA Service)