Bal Thackeray was a political legend and figurehead in the city of Mumbai and its polity. The idea of Shiv Sena, borne out from the ‘son of the soils’ movement has metamorphosed into many forms with era, age and changing political landscape. Shiv Sena’s tirade against the South Indians then had subtly been replaced by North Indians or for that matter Gujarati community very recently. However their roaring stand on Hindutva was widely known and acknowledged. After fostering an alliance with the BJP, it has consistently cultured the same stand.
After the Babri Masjid demolition, Bal Thackeray had vociferously supported the Ayodhaya movement and in fact had postured on the same. A sub branching of that extremism was disdainful anger against the appeasement of minority community and their special privileges.
Having said that, in this BMC election, as the Shiv Sena is facing an uphill task of retaining the lucrative body for the first time after Bal Thackeray’s demise, the layers of philosophical ideologies the Shiv Sena supposedly believed in are peeling away as its desperation to retain the BMC intensified especially following its bitter divorce with the BJP. Nevertheless, now even its grand standing core attire of Hindutva too seems to be eroding as they harbour appeasement polices for the minorities which they had ably scoffed at,
laughed and criticised the Congress.
In one of the biggest indicators of it wooing and reaching out to the Muslim voters are a number of ads Shiv Sena splashed in innumerable Urdu papers.
As seen very recently, two barbs by Shiv Sena after it broke up with the BJP were significant from the election point of view. Firstly they had openly courted caste reservation leader, Hardik Patel to divide Gujarati votes and praised Congress lavishly who have been their primary nemesis in politics.
Their latest salvo of trying to get close to the minorities is an admixture of its desperation in securing seats to latch on to the BMC and the intense anti-Modi firestorm it is engaged in since 2014. Perhaps, their quest to woo minority voters is important in case they want to retain BMC without any alliance and so pocket boroughs of areas like Govandi or Mankhurd may offer them some hope to salvage a few numbers. A resurgent Sena, by positioning an anti-Modi stance may think it’s making minority voters yearn towards them as an alternative with the Congress and the NCP down and out.
Unfortunately, Shiv Sena is subtly trying to pull a Nitish Kumar by emulating his tactics but they lack two essential things in this process. Firstly, Sena is alone and it’s not a grand coalition of sorts like Bihar which helped them there to consolidate Muslim votes against the NDA. ( here in fact there are other parties like MIM and SP too). Secondly, Sena was staunchly against the minorities. The 92-93 riots and the subsequent Sri Krishna commission report – Shiv Sena’s aversion to the minorities is well documented and cannot take a 360 degree u turn in just one campaign mired by opportunism.
Other factors are not so much in their favour to help the them garner minority support either. Sena doesn’t have prominent Muslim faces as leaders that can turn the tide of their electoral fortunes and even lack majorly in distribution of tickets to the same for these elections. When Mayawati planned a similar appeasing phenomena in UP elections, she gave a large percentage of her tickets to Muslim candidates which can have a profound impact and the Shiv Sena cannot replicate similar things here on that scale.
With its identity based regional polity, it’s attempts to project itself as a cosmopolitan political party looks more so as an opportunistic plank to adhere to their slipping political foundations.
With all the hullabaloo with respect to its leaning and choices, finally its biggest enemy this poll in the form of rampant anti incumbency is going to haunt the Sena. Basic civic issues with which the city is plagued with, will supersede all factors and determine their fate in this impending election.
Ask them a question as to why the roads are so bad, their standard reply would be non cooperation from the state and central govts.
With the pressure of holding its fort is mounting, the Sena seems to be resurrecting its outlook immeasurably. As the aggressive saffron of the past is trying to divert and dilute itself, it is even changing colour to suit its electoral needs at the cost of its self gloried ideologue.