By Sushil Kutty
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his MVA government are getting boxed in by the machinations of the BJP-MNS combine which is busy giving oxygen to the perception that the Shiv Sena is no longer the Hindutva force it used to be during the time of Hindutva icon Balasaheb Thackeray, and that the Shiv Sena stopped being Hindutva the day it tied its future to that of the secular forces led by the NCP-Congress.
And, believe it or not, strange as it may sound, the Congress and NCP have jumped to the rescue of the Shiv Sena as it fights to hold on to its shrinking Hindutva space. There is evidence of this in the daily night soap operas masquerading as TV debates, in which Congress and NCP spokespersons lustily defend the Shiv Sena’s Balasaheb-given Hindutva credentials against the BJP’s “sham” Hindutva.
The problem, however, is that even this friendly push from its MVA allies is insufficient for the Shiv Sena to hold on to its footing in the Hindutva world. Uddhav Thackeray broke Hindutva ranks to break bread with the secular NCP and Congress because he was fed up with “big brother BJP.” For Thackeray, the BJP-PDP power-sharing formula was proof that the BJP had gotten used to taking the Shiv Sena for granted.
It was evidence that the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance was loaded heavily against the Sena. If the BJP could give up the chief minister’s post to the PDP, why not the same for long-time Hindutva ally? All that mattered to the Sena was that certain features of the Balasaheb Thackeray-module of the Shiv Sena no longer held good in the Brave New World!
It has been two-and-a-half years since Uddhav Thackeray changed the Hindutva formula to suit the secular credentials of the NCP and the Congress. Now, the Battle of the Hindutva is in full swing and the entire MVA is one in backing the Shiv Sena’s Hindutva against the BJP’s Hindutva. Only a Hindutva Shiv Sena can transfer Hindutva votes to the NCP and the Congress.
For the NCP and the Congress, the MVA was the chance to keep the BJP out. For Uddhav, the radical shift was prompted by more than pelf-and-power-sharing. You’ll have to get into Uddhav Thackeray’s head to know why he chose to break up with both father and big brother! Maybe, MNS Chief Raj Thackeray would be able to explain the psyche-shift in Uddhav Thackeray.
Maybe, there was always this steely-demeanour in Uddhav Thackeray; never more apparent than in his willingness to break away from the comfort of the status quo to the challenges posed by a different set of variables. Is Uddhav Thackeray resurrecting in himself the tough, bold personality of the larger-than-life Balasaheb Thackeray, shades of which were there in Raj Thackeray, which had at one time led to odds between the two?
What did Uddhav Thackeray and the Shiv Sena have to lose by shifting alliances, other than its core ideology? Being in power in a state, running the government, calling the shots, making powerful people bend to your will, is a heady experience, more so to those who never held power, ever. The important thing is the heady feeling is shared by all Shiv Sainiks. At least that is what Uddhav Thackeray banked on.
Now, even as he is being tested at the altar of Hindutva, Uddhav is in turn testing the Shiv Sena cadre who Balasaheb Thackeray nurtured and banked on to keep the Thackerays at the helm, and to stamp the Shiv Sena’s authority on Maharashtra, Mumbai in particular. Has the majority of the Sena cadre shifted allegiance with the alleged shift in ideology?
Cannot be, because the benefits of power filter down the line to the last party worker in the queue. Also, Hindutva is not the strongest of glues. It was for an entirely different reason, and feeling, that Hindutva storm-troopers brought down a decrepit mosque. If one is driven by the passions of the mob, the other is built on cold calculations.
Another argument is that Shiv Sena worker/cadre alone is not Hindutva, which spans parties and cadres. There are the Hindutva in the BJP as there are in the Shiv Sena, and in the MNS. There are also bundles of Hindus, as opposed to the Hindutva, owing allegiance to secular parties. How this entire block of the Hindutva/Hindu has taken the Shiv Sena’s ideological volte-face also counts.
That said, what the people of Maharashtra are seeing is a Chief Minister under siege! The soft-spoken and calm and composed Uddhav Thackeray foaming at the mouth at the mention of Hindutva is a new Uddhav Thackeray. It is a sign of desperation, the symptom of the realization that maybe it’s the end of the Hindutva road for the Shiv Sena.
That desperation was seen when Uddhav Thackeray did not sign on the letter written by opposition leaders to the Centre, blasting the Modi government for the rise in communal incidents across the country. It is being seen in the change in the MVA government’s “loudspeakers policy” under the excuse of the BJP is “trying to foment communal riots in Maharashtra, and the rest of the country.” The reality, though, is that Hindutva is holding the Shiv Sena, and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, to ransom. (IPA Service)