An opportunity for Sena

Kashmir Times. Dated: 11/30/2019 1:29:05 PM

Being in power presents an opportunity to Shiv Sena comes to power with a lot of unsavoury baggage

Shiv Sena strongman Uddhav Thackeray's going up the ladder to chief minister's office in the most unexpected circumstances marks a moment of rupture in Maharashtra's political history. This has surprised many political forecasters, who have been looking forward to restoration of coalition government with separate political partners forming the government for fulfilling the aspiration of the electorate. That is why, it was expected that the mandate in October elections was for the Hindutva alliance comprising the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena. But, it is surprising that the two ideological and political partners for over a quarter of century could not agree on government formation and events that followed forced a realignment of the political forces. The contingencies of managing a coalition that includes the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress, political opponents of Shiv Sena have propelled its chief, who has no prior legislative and administrative experience, to chief ministership. Moreover, Uddhav Thackerary has been a reluctant politician in the cnetre-stage has been brought forward to head the Maha Vikas Aghadi, a grand alliance of three political parties, in Maharashtra. The Thackeray family has controlled the levers of government in 1995-99 and 2014-19 from the outside. Interestingly, that power this time seems to be vested, most of all, in Sharad Pawar, the architect of the Sena-NCP-Congress government in Mumbai. His presence will loom large over the alliance the Shiv Sena leads, a situation the party is not used to. Moreover, as leader of the coalition, the Sena may also have to recalibrate its politics and accommodate the interests of its allies if the government is to last the full term and witness a smooth functioning for deliverance on the promises made to the people. The first of all is promise to waive off the loans of the distressed farmers in the state besides donning the secular agenda of the partners. It is an irony of the current situation in Maharashtra that the Sena, infamous for using unconstitutional and strong-arm methods, has been seen to speak for the Constitution and its principles in the past few weeks, even as its former partner, the BJP disregarded constitutional propriety in its pursuit of power. Yet, even in this moment and especially in this moment, the Sena's inglorious past cannot be glossed over.
It is also important to note that Bal Thackeray, who founded Shiv Sena in 1966, it has come to symbolise some of the worst tendencies in Indian politics, including regional chauvinism and hate for the minorities. In its early years, the Sena was seen as a lumpen outfit that championed ethnic pride and targeted the Left trade unions in Bombay. As it grew and Bombay ceased to have an organised working class movement, the party came closer to the BJP, embraced the Hindutva ideology and joined the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. The virulent anti-Muslim edge of its mobilisations and the vanguard role it played in the 1992 Bombay riots, documented extensively in the Justice Srikrishna Commission report, transformed the Sena from being a regional chauvinist outfit to a majoritarian and communal group. The Sena under Uddhav appears to be conscious that its nativist agenda is losing its appeal among even its traditional voters and that the Hindutva space is now fully occupied by the BJP. Whether or not it feels compelled to refashion and reinvent itself as a ruling party, it can be said that it now has the opportunity. Both the Sena and its chief will be watched closely for how they use, or misuse, it. Moreover, their control over the financial capital of the country will be watches closely and seriously by the corporate world, which has been funding the major part of the election campaigns in every election.

 

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