A 50-year-old political party that ruled the hearts of Maharashtra has landed in an awkward situation due to the divide in politics. The freezing of Shiv Sena’s name and poll symbol by the Election Commission was disastrous. The late Bal Thackeray’s efforts to build the “bow and arrow” symbol became famous due to his tireless work. Unfortunately, the current political situation in Maharashtra is highly unstable, which is vivacious. Amid a face-off with the Uddhav Thackeray faction, the Eknath Shinde camp submitted a list of their three choices for the party symbol to the Election Commission of India through an email.
The EC had last week frozen the “bow and arrow” symbol of Shiv Sena amid a deepening rift. The matter had even reached the Supreme Court. On Monday, Team Eknath Shinde was allowed by the poll body to name the party – ‘Babasahebanchi Shiv Sena’ (Balasaheb’s Shiv Sena). The team’s other choice – Shiv Sena (Balasaheb Thackeray) – was rejected on grounds that it was team Uddhav’s first choice also.
After the EC granted the name, Shinde in a tweet roughly translated from Marathi – said: “Finally the victory of Hindu Hriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray’s Hindutva ideals. We are the inheritors of his ideals.” Ever since he revolted against Uddhav Thackeray and later took charge as Maharashtra chief minister, Eknath Shinde has been insisting that he continues to follow the ideals of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray.
The Uddhav Thackeray camp has already got a symbol cleared by the EC – a flaming torch or a “mashaal”. Team Uddhav’s second choice of name, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), has been cleared. Now there is another challenge, that the Uddhav Shiv-Sena has to battle with Balasaheb Shiv Sena that Eknath possesses. Uddhav loyalists may stick to him but Shiv Sainiks at large can switch their loyalties to Shinde as he has been claiming as Balasaheb Shiv Sena. Most of the ruler population is devoted to Sena due to their love and devotion for Balsaheb Thackeray.
Shiv Sena is a right-wing Marathi regionalist and Hindu ultranationalist political party in India founded in 1966 by cartoonist Balasaheb Thackeray. Originally emerging from nativist movements in Bombay (present-day Mumbai), the party agitated for preferential treatment for the Marathi people over migrants from other parts of India. Its election symbol for Maharashtra was Bow and Arrow.
Although the party’s primary base is still in Maharashtra, it has tried to expand to a pan-Indian base. In the 1970s, it gradually moved from advocating a pro-Marathi ideology to one supporting a broader Hindu nationalist agenda and aligned itself with the Bharatiya Janata Party. The party started taking part in Mumbai (BMC) Municipal elections after its inception. In 1989, it entered into an alliance with the BJP for Lok Sabha as well as Maharashtra assembly elections, the latter of which was temporarily broken in October 2014 Assembly elections.
The alliance was quickly reformed and Shiv Sena became part of the BJP government in Maharashtra in December 2014. It was a coalition partner in the National Democratic Alliance during 1998–2019, including the Vajpayee Government during 1998–2004 and the Narendra Modi Government during 2014–2019. After the Maharashtra elections in October 2019, Shiv Sena claimed that promises were not kept by their alliance partner BJP and broke ties. The party later joined hands with the Indian National Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party in a bid to form the government in Maharashtra. Later this alliance lost power after Eknath Shinde, a rebel Shiv Sena leader gathered the support of 2/3rd of the Sena MLAs along with BJP and became the Chief Minister on June 30, 2022.
The Uddhav Sena versus Balasaheb Sena saga started in June when Eknath Shinde led 48 MLAs in a BJP-backed coup against then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, bringing down his coalition government. Shinde then formed a new government with the BJP. Uddhav Thackeray, who lost a majority of the Sena’s elected members to team Shinde, was fighting to keep the name, election symbol and legacy of the party founded by his father Balasaheb Thackeray. But by freezing the name, two factions of the Shiv Sena, led by Uddhav Thackeray and his rival Eknath Shinde, were assigned new names and symbols for an upcoming by-election. The Election Commission’s order stands until it decides on the “real” Shiv Sena question. Uddhav Thackeray’s faction will be the Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray and its symbol will be the mashaal (flaming torch).
Eknath Shinde’s group will be called the ‘Babasahebanchi Shiv Sena’ (Balasaheb’s Shiv Sena). Team Shinde has laid claim to the Shiv Sena’s “bow and arrow” election symbol, but the Election Commission asked it to pick a new option. Uddhav Thackeray challenged the freeze in the Delhi High Court, arguing that his faction was not heard before the decision, which, he said, was “against principles of natural justice”.