Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is termed as secular after aligning with the Congress-NCP to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. Does this mean that the Shiv Sena has abandoned the Hindutva ideology? No, in a smart move Uddhav Thackeray has invited Rahul Gandhi to accompany him to Ayodhya when he visits the temple city in March when his government completes 100 days in office. With this move, Uddhav wants to show people that he has not given up the Hindutva ideology; he is very much with it. Uddhav himself had earlier stated that Shiv Sena would never abandon the ideology of Hindutva.
It looks like the MNS is undergoing a transformation akin to what Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena did by aligning with two parties of different ideologies like the Congress and NCP to anoint party president Uddhav Thackeray as Maharashtra’s chief minister by turning secular. Raj Thackeray, on the other hand, has taken over the ideology of Hindutva leaving behind the ‘Marathi Manoos’ ideology. The party has changed the colour of its flag to lean more towards the Hindutva ideology.
The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) was founded in 2006 after Raj Thackeray split from the Shiv Sena. Now with Shiv Sena holding the secular flag, MNS thought it was the right time to hold the saffron flag. Raj Thackeray, along with party workers, unveiled the new flag and officially launched his son Amit Thackeray into mainstream politics on Thursday during the party’s Maha Adhiveshan at Nesco ground in Goregaon. It is said that Amit will be the leader of the party but as of now, no decision has been taken on what responsibilities will be given to him.
The MNS old flag, which consists of saffron, green, blue, with strips of white bands and bore the image of an engine whereas the new one is completely saffron. This flag also has the seal of the 17th century warrior-king Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in it. According to some sources, the party chief wanted to change the flag before the year 2017 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) elections. However, he held it back due to some reason.
With the new saffron flag, MNS is going to bring a new twist in Maharashtra politics with several party members believing that it will boost the morale of party workers. MNS’s transition to Hindutva may pave way for an alliance with the BJP. As few weeks ago Raj Thackeray met former Maharashtra chief minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai hotel.
Raj Thackeray who had quit the Shiv Sena and formed MNS after having a leadership tussle with cousin Uddhav Thackeray over the post of the president. However, for Raj Thackeray this step may be a political opening for an alliance with the BJP.
Now, this is what Raj Thackeray is looking at. He wants his party to be seen as a pan-India party. While the overt shift to Hindutva may alienate sections like the Marathi-speaking Muslims especially those in tier-II cities and rural Maharashtra and also Buddhist Dalits, who, being followers of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar resist political Hindutva. Raj Thackeray is depending on the pull he has as people like him. Whereas BJP when it was having an alliance with Shiv Sena it used to boast about the Hindutva agenda but after Sena parted ways, BJP lacks the political stand on Hindutva.
While the Shiv Sena’s adoption of aggressive Hindutva in the late 1980’s paid electoral dividends in the short-term, it eventually prevented its expansion as a pan-Maharashtra regional and sub-national party like political formations in Southern India.