Shiv Sena’s dilemma at 50: To enjoy fruits of power with BJP, or play an adversarial role?

Shiv Sena president Uddhav's dilemma is it wants to enjoy the fruits of power at both the Centres and the state, and also play opposition role hoping to consolidate the electoral base in 2017 BMC polls and 2019 assembly polls.

Written by Shubhangi Khapre | Mumbai | Published: June 17, 2016 4:03:34 pm
(Source: Express photo by Prashant Nadkar) (Source: Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)

The Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray’s dilemma is it wants to enjoy the fruits of power at both the Centres and the state, and also play opposition role hoping to consolidate the electoral base in 2017 BMC polls and 2019 assembly polls.

On June 19, 1966 when the late Bal Thackeray formed the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, he had mesmerised generation next with a slogan – “Anshi takke Samajkaran; vees takke rajkaran” which translated into English meant, ’80 per cent social work and 20 per cent politics’.

However, in the last five decades that slogan has been forgotten by both the public and the sainiks. Since then, the Shiva Sena has established itself as a 100 per cent political party.

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Today, the Shiv Sena, under the leadership of Uddhav Thackeray, is striving towards a highly ambitious goal to make the party the number one political power of Maharashtra in the 2019 assembly elections. This is the single agenda programme of Thackeray which he repeatedly harps upon during closed door meetings of the organisation.

The Sena finds itself at the crossroads, unable to decide whether it wants to play the role of the ruling party enjoying the fruits of power with the BJP, or adopt an aggressive adversarial role, to consolidate its electoral base for the 2017 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls and state polls two years later.

In the 2014 state assembly elections, the Sena won 63 out of 288 seats and became the second largest party in Maharashtra. The BJP with 123 seats emerged as top dog in Maharashtra. For first time in the history of Maharashtra politics, the Sena had been reduced to playing second fiddle to its alliance partner in the Maharashtra government led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.

As the party celebrates its 50 years, the biggest challenge confronting the leader and organisation are the BMC elections in early 2017. What makes the BMC polls so significant for the Sena is that this is where its emotional connect lies with the city – ‘Amchi Mumbai’. In terms of vote share, Sena has always had an edge in the 26 per cent Marathi vote bank in Mumbai. In 1985, the Shiv Sena took big political strides by capturing power in the BMC. It has held the reins in the BMC for the last 15 years—the BMC is country’s richest corporation with huge budget of Rs 37,000 crore.

Unlike in the past, this time the problems for Sena are going to multiple. Its political strategy to attack the Narendra Modi government at the Centre through its in-house publication Saamna and remain a pro-active partner of the NDA maybe a contradiction it will find difficult to reconcile increasingly in the coming days.

After the 2014 assembly and parliamentary elections, the Congress, NCP and MNS faced a total rout. It is this vacant opposition space which the Sena hopes to occupy by keeping up its aggressive criticism of the BJP government at the Centre and in the state.

In Maharashtra, the decision to join the government was taken after weighing all the pros and cons. The decision to join the BJP was to avoid divisions within its own organization: there is a section in the Sena which believes it is better to be in power both at the Centre and the state, than to play the role of opposition from outside.

However, the Sena’s biggest challenge in successive elections has also come from the BJP. So the Sena finds itself in the anomalous situation of fighting the BJP for political upmanship while supporting it. It is this balancing act poses a threat to the party.

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