Fissures within the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance keep on getting wider. In a fresh split between the NCP-Congress-Shiv Sena coalition, Maharashtra CM, Udhhav Thackeray has agreed to go ahead with the National Population Register (NPR) in the state of Maharashtra.
In fact, sources say that the Shiv Sena supremo is keen to get the exercise implemented in the state by May 1, something that comes as a major snub to the Sena’s allies- Congress and the NCP, both of whom have been staunchly opposing the NPR in the background of the recent anti-CAA violence across the country.
NCP leader Majeed Menom even said, “It is clear that the party is not supporting NPR. [Chief] Sharad Pawar has made it clear. The ultimate decision has to be accepted by all three parties.”
Till now, the Shiv Sena chief, Uddhav Thackeray was seen as giving in to the will of the NCP supremo, Sharad Pawar, but with this latest development Uddhav seems to be defying the will of the man who is largely seen as the one calling the shots within the incumbent ruling coalition in Maharashtra.
Recently, there were palpable tensions within the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance owing to the government’s decision of consenting to the transfer of Bhima Koregaon case to the NIA. And now the NPR decision is likely to deepen the divide even further.
Uddhav Thackeray’s decision on the NPR comes with the backdrop of Raj Thackeray’s image makeover, who has suddenly taken a more pro-Hindutva stand- a major shift from his party’s previously Maratha-centric outlook.
Sending a void in the Hindutva political space in Maharashtra as Shiv Sena led by his cousin brother, Uddhav Thackeray has deserted the Hindutva ideology and icons by joining an alliance with the Congress and the NCP, the MNS chief has carried out a major rebranding exercise.
Recently, the party even organised a ‘mahamorcha’ demanding the ouster of illegal immigrants.
MNS has also changed its flag colour, which is now completely saffron as opposed to the mix of saffron, blue, white and green colours. In the January 23 meeting, the party also inducted the photo of Veer Savarkar, showing how the party has given up on its identity of core Marathi sub-nationalism and anti-immigration, in favour of a more explicit Hindu nationalist image.
It seems that the Maharashtra CM, Uddhav Thackeray has realised that ceding the Hindutva space has cost him big.
Raj Thackeray’s emergence as a pro-Hindutva leader has forced the Uddhav Thackeray led Sena to take a bold stand on issues that it was earlier planning to sidestep in order to ensure the survival of the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition. Shiv Sena has been tentative on the Citizenship Amendment Act, and also against NRC under the pressure of its alliance partners. This started expose the spinelessness of Uddhav Thackeray and insincerity when it comes to nationalism, which he has now tried to correct.
Till now, the Shiv Sena was sparring only with the Congress over the manner in which the grand old party was repeatedly insulting Veer Savarkar- the larger than life Hindutva icon.
But the emergence of Raj Thackeray as a pro-Hindutva leader quickly occupying the void created by Shiv Sena’s abandonment of its core ideology, is now driving a serious wedge within the ruling coalition.
In the background of Raj Thackeray’s rise, the Shiv Sena cannot afford to be seen as the one going soft on the Hindutva agenda, and therefore it is now openly defying Sharad Pawar on some critical issues. As such the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance seems to be headed towards an imminent, inevitable split.