‘ve been always a great admirer of Balasaheb and have always considered him as a mentor in journalism. Besides being a bold and upfront politician, he was a journalist to the core who always understood the basic elements and ethos of the fourth pillar of democracy. That way, I’ve been always closely observing Shiv Sena and its politics, their stand on many issues, the cause for their ideology, voters, and the people of Maharashtra. Although, there can be always a debate and criticism around it as we live in a democracy, and no person or party can be perfect when it comes to scrutiny.
After the demise of Balasaheb, Uddhav and Raj parted their ways because of their political ambitions and claims over Balasaheb’s legacy. While Uddhav was blessed with Balasaheb’s inheritance when he was alive, Raj went ahead to create a new political party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), claiming over Balasaheb’s ideology and political legacy.
Balasaheb was known for his Hindu nationalistic ideas wherein he always stood for the Hindu cause and their interest and it was not limited to Maharashtra but nationally. Be it Ram Mandir issue, Mumbai blast case, communal riots, etc. — he was always very upfront and firm on his ideas whenever he spoke and made any statement. It was Balasaheb who forged a strong alliance with BJP which is again considered to be a Hindu nationalistic party since its inception. Balasaheb was regarded highly by the BJP leadership and we have always seen all the BJP leaders coming to Mumbai and pay him a visit, taking ideas and guidance from him and making strategies for not only Maharashtra but National politics as well. In fact, in his times, Shiv Sena was always regarded as the big brother of BJP in Maharashtra politics and whenever they won any election, it was Shiv Sena which led the government and BJP always took the back seat. That was the charisma of Balasaheb and his leadership.
Although things changed immediately after his demise, as his legacy could not be consolidated by Uddhav and Raj and both of them parting their ways made it uncertain which one is going to be the next leader and provide the leadership to the Shiv Sainiks after Balasaheb’s demise. This indeed created a vacuum in the Maharashtra and national politics. Moreover, both were young leaders; so, it was expected from them that they will hand over the batton to the senior BJP leaders who worked alongside Balasaheb, which eventually they did not agree to and wanted to downplay the seniority factor. No blame to them for this as in politics, you always try to take the last mileage. However, this led to bitterness between both the coalition partners and the bitterness caused the core idea of the alliance going missing. It was no more Balasaheb’s Shiv Sena for quite some time when we saw Shiv Sena leaders attacking BJP on almost all the issues. We could not see the consolidated Hindu nationalism stand from the coalition partners. Whenever BJP spoke of Ram Mandir, Shiv Sena was missing. Whenever BJP spoke about Article 370, Shiv Sena was missing. Whenever BJP talked about NRC, Shiv Sena was missing. Rather we saw Shiv Sena criticising BJP on all these issues and occasions.
All through this, we saw the alliance forming the government in Maharashtra where BJP clearly denied their role of big brother and Devendra Fadanvis became the CM of the state. Shiv Sena as an alliance partner was given berth in the central government but was deprived of important portfolios. The message was loud and clear from BJP that you no longer are a Big Brother in the alliance after Balasaheb, you have to earn it. Well, this did not go well through the Shiv Sena leadership and we saw all the bickering and between all these, their core ideology lost its track. Both of them, although being alliance partners, went with their stand alone. In fact, at times, both of them tried to hijack the core issues with the right-wing voters. Shiv Sena marching to Ayodhya for Ram Mandir a few months back was a live example.
In the meantime, we saw Shiv Sena working or pretending to be working with the opposition parties attacking BJP — be it West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee visiting Matoshree, be it Shiv Sena praising Rahul Gandhi, be it towing the opposition slogan “Chowkidar Chor Hai” — we have seen it all. However, I personally consider it as the pressure tactics by Shiv Sena on BJP to make them understand that we’re an independent party and if not given our due credit, we can go independently. This I think was a very intelligent and brave move by Shiv Sena and Uddhav in the testing times. At the same time, BJP also realised the fact that they cannot win the battle alone in Maharashtra and without Sena, they cannot perform. BJP and its leaders also behaved maturely in this matter when we saw no rebuttal coming from them or no strong statements coming on all the criticism and attacks from Shiv Sena. In fact, whenever asked, Devendra Fadnavis or the BJP leadership either kept mum or defended their alliance.
As the 2019 elections came nearby, the moves by Uddhav worked and the top brass of BJP approached Uddhav for reconciliation realising his importance. As a wise politician, Uddhav behaved very maturely and a responsible coalition partner. We not only saw both the parties forge the alliance for 2019, but he also agreed to give BJP more seats to fight in Maharashtra realising the national sentiments and issues. He might have given BJP more seats but he successfully made the impression and statement of being a big brother. He even went for the nomination filing of BJP President Amit Shah which was highly unlikely by any Shiv Sena chief. While addressing the function, he was very candid telling the public and cadres that ‘Yes, we were criticising BJP on many issues and had differences with them but this is how democratic our alliance is and we could resolve all of them through dialogues and Shiv Sena BJP is going to fight the opposition together firmly’. He’s been seen doing rallies with the BJP leadership together while the same element has been missing with INC-NCP coalition so far. He’s been making speeches in the same voice with BJP on the issues that we saw at the times of Balasaheb. The latest example is Sanjay Raut coming out in defence of the candidature of Sadhvi Pragya from Bhopal and refuting the Hindu terror theory coined by Congress.
I see all these sequences of events as the consolidation of Hindu Nationalism politics which Balasaheb stood for, the element that went missing after him in Shiv Sena. It seems that this coalition is going to give tough times to the opposition in Maharashtra and the understanding between the BJP-Shiv Sena is unmatchable. One recent example of their understanding to sight, however, I don’t know how true this is but some sources revealed that after getting humiliated by the Congress leadership on the issue of abuse and misbehaviour by some fellow party men, their national spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi decided to leave Congress after serving the party for almost a decade. Sources reveal that her first choice was BJP. However, she was the most prominent and active face of Congress, be it TV, Social media or other which attacked the BJP, PM Modi, and the government from the front as a Congress spokesperson and leader. It would have been really embarrassing for the BJP to induct her into the party within a couple of days of such attacks. However, the BJP realised that she was a great asset to Congress and will be so for whichever party she joins. They didn’t want to either take her or lose her and Shiv Sena played an important role thereby inducting her into the party with the consultation and suggestion of BJP leadership. BJP didn’t take her but technically didn’t lose her. This was complete teamwork by Shiv Sena-BJP.
In the end, I would only like to say that the kind of mature politics and moves Uddhav has shown in the last few weeks, Shiv Sena may reclaim the glory of Balasaheb’s era. Both the parties are going to benefit from this and it’s a great consolidation of both the Hindu nationalist parties and their politics.
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