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MNS face-lift: Saffron, Shivaji, Savarkar and Son introduced in politics

To regain the lost sheen, Raj Thackeray had no other option but to adopt the Hindutva ideology shifting from Marathi Manoos

It is the story of how two men bound by family ties and political ideology came face-to-face by challenging the ideologies and legacy of the party line. They made entirely different paths. Today, one of them is a chief minister, while the other is finding a path to conquer state politics. After looking at the successful launch of Aaditya Thackeray in active politics, Raj Thackeray’s son Amit was tossed into politics on Thursday. With a new flag and a new leader, Raj Thackeray gave a facelift to his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Amit Thackeray’s short thanksgiving speech was applauded enthusiastically by his immediate family. The new party flag features Chhatrapati Shivaji’s “Raj Mudra” on a saffron base. A “Raj Mudra” was the royal seal used during the time of Shivaji. With the party’s earlier flag having been saffron, blue and green, the switch triggered speculation about a possible consolidation of the Hindutva credentials of the party. Since Shiv Sena has aligned with Congress-NCP, people think that the Hindutva credentials are diluted. BJP has never worked on Hindutva agenda. Moreover, Modi ji clearly announced “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” and it was the Shiv Sena which was widely known as custodians of Hindutva politics in India. Now, with the BJP out of the ruling alliance, the race appears to be on for the saffron-Marathi vote bank. Uddhav Thackeray is expected to visit Ayodhya after he completes 100 days in power. The Shiv Sena leader has also extended an invite to Rahul Gandhi to travel with him to Ayodhya along with Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

On the other hand, Raj Thackeray who had sided with the opposition and his repeated attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah had been widely circulated on social media. He was also said to be keen on joining the opposition alliance. But the idea was turned down by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi in view of the party’s anti-migrant rhetoric. So, now to regain the lost sheen, he had no other option but to adopt the Hindutva ideology shifting from Marathi Manoos. Raj Thackeray had launched the new party in 2006 after his split with the Shiv Sena. The feud started after party patriarch Bal Thackeray chose his son Uddhav Thackeray to lead the party. Since then, the cousins have been chasing the Marathi vote and taking swipes at each other. With Hindutva equations, Raj might split the votes of BJP as well as Sena. BJP is keen on him filing the Hindutva void in the state. The former chief minister and senior BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis met Raj Thackeray two weeks ago while Ashish Shelar, the party’s former Mumbai president had called on the MNS chief in the last week of December. BJP also hopes that Raj will revive his sons-of-the-soil plank as it will help with the implementation of the controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC).

As people see Indira in Priyanka Gandhi, Raj is seen as a mirror image of Balasaheb, the way he gives speeches, one can easily relate it with Saheb. He has all those peculiar qualities of Balasaheb and to deal with one Thackeray one needs another Thackeray. Perhaps, this is the reason why BJP in spite of taking all attacks and humiliation from Raj is now seeking his support. Uddhav Thackeray walked away from the 25-year-old Sena-BJP alliance to come together with the NCP and Congress as the Maha Vikas Aghadi. Uddhav held Sonia Gandhi and Pawar to walk his ambition; Raj Thackeray began his mega rally by garlanding the picture of Savarkar along with B R Ambedkar, Prabodhankar Thackeray and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. Savarkar on stage, saffron in flag, Raj Thackeray gave new hopes to saffron voters. MNS currently has a single representative in the 289-strong Maharashtra state assembly. For one, the Shiv Sena, under Uddhav Thackeray, is no longer a vehement proponent of Hindutva, an ideology that the senior Thackeray championed. Having formed the government in alliance with the Congress and the NCP, the Shiv Sena has also set aside its shrill sons-of-the-soil rhetoric. The opposition BJP, on the lookout for an alliance partner in the state, appears to now believe that the right person to perpetuate Bal Thackeray’s brand of politics is his nephew, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray.

Despite the fact that Raj had been a vehement critic of the BJP and had campaigned against the party in the assembly elections, he had called for a “Modi-Shah-free India” ahead of the Parliamentary elections declaring that the country needed to get rid of the duo. Though his party did not contest, his “Laav re toh video (Show the video)” campaign against the BJP became extremely popular as it sought to expose the failures of the Modi government. Now, a friendless BJP in Maharashtra has knocked on his doors out of compulsions of regional politics though the party has its conditions. But Raj is not an easy leader to accept what they say, but adopt a larger goal. Raj has taken up Hindutva as the MNS ideology. There is a huge vacuum where the Hindutva ideology is concerned. With this, he can get huge support from the people and once again the dead MNS can regain its lost sheen.

Let’s see how does Uddhav’s ‘Secular Turn’ and cousin Raj’s floating Hindutva go with the voters. A transition to soft Hindutva by the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena may pave the way for an alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party to take on the ruling triumvirate of Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP. The BJP, despite being the single-largest party in the Maharashtra legislative assembly, has been left licking its wounds after the Shiv Sena broke off to form an alliance with the Congress and NCP.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 14 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazine Beyond The News (international). She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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