Chafing against the expanding BJP, yet unable to do without it, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray faces several challenges as his party gears up to mark its 50th anniversary on Sunday.
To reassert its political identity ahead of the crucial BMC polls in 2017 and the Assembly elections in 2019, the Sena has decided to continue its aggressive stance against the BJP-led governments at the Centre and the state.
On Sunday, Uddhav will address party workers at the NSE Grounds in Goregaon to mark the party’s 50 years.
The biggest political challenge ahead of Uddhav is the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls in early 2017.
For the last 15 years, Sena has been the ruling party in the BMC, the country’s richest municipal corporation with a Rs 37,000-crore budget.
Notwithstanding public posturing, Uddhav has plenty of problems in-house.
The Sena’s blow hot, blow cold strategy is a tactical decision to remain a part of the ruling alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, but adopt the role of the opposition when taking on the party on the streets.
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Uddhav reckons that the aggression against the BJP has to be confined to policy decisions and he cannot afford to break ties at this juncture, as any attempt to part ways could lead to a split within his party.
A senior Sena functionary said, “ The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party electoral losses have rendered the Opposition weak. The Sena believes that by criticising the government, it can take the opposition space and consolidate electorally.”
“However, our compulsion to remain a part of the BJP governments at the Centre and the state is to ensure that the party is not split. A large number of our MPs and MLAs had mounted pressure on the party leadership to join the governments led by Narendra Modi and Devendra Fadnavis,” the source said.
In the 2014 Maharashtra polls, the Sena won 63 seats out of the total 288. The BJP, with 123 seats, emerged as the single largest party, but Sena’s support is crucial for its stability as the half-way mark is 144 seats.
In the cabinet of 30 ministers, the Sena is represented by ten ministerial posts in the Fadnavis government.
Uddhav, who took over the reins of the Shiv Sena as executive president in 2003, when the late Bal Thackeray, the party founder, was still controlling the party affairs, has by now established his leadership.
Bal Thackeray passed away in November 17, 2012.
The Shiv Sena was born on June 19, 1966. The late Bal Thackeray evoked the Marathi Manoos plank, pledging to confine the organisation to 80 per cent social work and 20 per cent politics.
Five decades later, the roadmap set by Uddhav has urged workers to strive to make the party electorally supreme.
An insider in the Sena admitted, “To counter the Modi-Fadnvais impact in Mumbai, the Sena has to revert to its sons-of-the-soil plank, as it has always banked on the 26 per cent Marathi vote bank to retain its edge in Mumbai.”
The 2014 assembly elections had come as a setback to the party in Mumbai, where out of 36 seats, the BJP won 15 and Sena was confined to 14 seats.