By Sushil Kutty
The party name ‘Shiv Sena’. The party election symbol bow & arrow. Both have gone to the Eknath Shinde Group in this fight to the finish. Now, the ‘Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray Shiv Sena’ wants the Election Commission dissolved. And, why not? After all, it was the Election Commission which gave away ‘Shiv Sena’ to the Shinde Group unmindful of Uddhav Thackeray’s objections. The scales of justice are not favouring the ‘Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray Shiv Sena’. The Uddhav-led faction has challenged the EC decision in the Supreme Court. The court will also hear petitions related to the political fallout of the split in the Shiv Sena.
There are other warfronts. The battle for the ‘Sena funds’; and the battle for ‘Sena Bhavan’. Soon after the EC decision that got the Shinde Group the Election Commission’s recognition, the group occupied the Sena’s party office in the Maharashtra Assembly building in a blatant display of “all yours is mine”. The Shinde-led Shiv Sena, helped by the BJP, wants the Sena founded by Balasaheb Thackeray lock, stock and barrel. Is there a way by which Eknath Shinde can declare himself Balasaheb Thackeray’s son, and not be challenged!
On a lighter note, Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray will be at the Pearly Gates when Eknath Shinde arrives. The question is, will Shinde be able to meet his mentor’s eyes without flinching? Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has usurped Balasaheb’s legacy, leaving the Thackerays high and dry!
Balasaheb Thackeray would not have imagined such a betrayal at the hands of a junior politician whom he had nurtured, and favoured. Today, Uddhav Thackeray can only rue his father’s decision. On Feb 17, the Election Commission took away from Uddhav Thackeray his father’s creation, the Shiv Sena, and with it, the party’s bow & arrow election symbol.
Anybody else but Uddhav Thackeray and there would have been street-veto. There can still be. Feb 20, the ‘Uddhav Thackeray Shiv Sena’ was saying the “real Shiv Sena” remained the focus. Chances are the Supreme Court will stay the Election Commission’s cut and dried decision.
Uddhav Thackeray can do with some luck. His decision to link up with the Congress, and the NCP, and form the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in 2019 was his undoing. Now his father’s party is Shinde’s party, the legitimate Shiv Sena.
It is historic, but hard to swallow, or even imagine. Nobody thought a day will dawn when there will be a Thackeray-less Shiv Sena. It was in 1966 that the Shiv Sena was born. And 2004 when Balasaheb Thackeray named Uddhav Thackeray his political heir. Old, old Shiv Sena history though it sounds like it was only yesterday!
Most Sena legislators, MLAs as well as MPs, are not with Uddhav. They are with Shinde. And with the Bharatiya Janata Party which helped Shinde get the better of Uddhav Thackeray. Uddhav Thackeray has, however, not given up, not just yet.
Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray, former Maharashtra Chief Minister and the first Thackeray to hold public office, used to lord over the Shiv Sena in his avatar as his father’s son, when Eknath Shinde was just another ordinary Shiv Sainik!
The Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray Sena will have to contest the BMC elections with the “Burning Torch” election symbol. Thankfully, the symbol is by now a familiar sight in Maharashtra. Most if not all the electorate know that the Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray Sena’s election symbol is the ‘Burning Torch’.
Fortunately for Uddhav Thackeray, he still has NCP founder Sharad Pawar to mentor him and lead him through the turmoil. Pawar is the father-figure Uddhav looks up to. And it was Pawar who told Uddhav Thackeray to go on and remain the political heir of his father Balasaheb Thackeray.
The big challenge for both Uddhav and Shinde are the upcoming BMC polls. But whereas Eknath Shinde is a transplant from Thane, the Thackeray family’s hold over the BMC goes back years. There’s an emotional connect. Uddhav Thackeray has asked his Sena to defeat the “Shinde Thieves”. With the Congress and the NCP with him, Uddhav Thackeray fancies his chances.
The “secular parties” owe big-time to the Uddhav Thackeray Sena. There is also the “sympathy factor”, what some call the “victim card”. At the end of the day, however, it will depend on how many “corporators” switch sides now that the Sena has been given to the Shinde Group.
The Thackerays’ tragedy is that both father and son, Uddhav Thackeray and Aditya Thackeray, have to keep proving they command the loyalty of party men and party leaders; and prevent the Shinde faction from poaching Thackeray Sena MLAs and MPs. Legal help has been sought for a stay on the EC decision.
Monday’s meeting at Uddhav’s residence was labelled crucial with every hand ordered on deck. The faction wants to be ready for any outcome. The “party’s” website has disappeared and the Twitter handles have been changed.
At the end of the day, however, winning the BMC elections is the key to reviving the fortunes of the “Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray Shiv Sena”. It is a test for Aditya Thackeray as Uddhav Thackeray is almost always home-bound, and also has health issues.
Aditya Thackeray will have to reinvent the Thackeray family’s party, all that is left of Balasaheb Thackeray’s original Shiv Sena that he built from scratch; from cartoon to caricature and finally to the party that roared its defiance without fear or favour! (IPA Service)