Even the most experienced political commentators would fail to predict in which direction will Shiv Sena tilt towards, mainly because those running the party are trying to monkey balance in order to save the three party alliance without alienating its core voter base. In yet another change of stance, Shiv Sena motormouth and Rajya Sabha MP, Sanjay Raut has come down heavily on National Conference President Farooq Abdullah for seeking to reimpose Article 370 and has also lambasted the incident where some youths were prevented from hoisting the tricolour at Lal Chowk in Srinagar.
Life has indeed come full circle for Sanjay Raut and Shiv Sena. The erstwhile nationalistic party perhaps under the compulsion of its alliance partners – INC and NCP, shedded its nationalistic and Hindutva ideology as the party not only opposed the Citizenship Amendment Act but also saw Raut defend a “Free Kashmir” slogan that spruced up during a protest in Mumbai. Just a few months later, Raut is now coming down heavily on Kashmir’s separatist elements, which is nothing but a cry for forgiveness.
After Farooq Abdullah stirred a hornet’s nest by claiming that he wished to restore Article 370 with the help of China and the subsequent Gupkar Declaration, Raut urged the Centre to take strict steps against such elements.
Commenting on the incident of a person being stopped from unfurling Indian national flag in Srinagar, Raut labelled the act as ‘Rashtra droh’.
The main commonalities in the Shiv Sena’s voter base are Hindutva and Nationalism, with the party initially sacrificing both to satisfy Uddhav Thackeray’s lust for Maharashtra’s top post. In a complete contradiction to the late Balasaheb’s ideology and legacy, Shiv Sena in January, defended a “Free Kashmir” slogan which propped up in a protest at the Gateway of India.
Sanjay Raut defended the woman holding the poster as he claimed that the poster talked about freedom from restrictions imposed on the people of Kashmir and not about Kashmir’s freedom from India. Adding his own spin, Raut said, “I read in newspaper that those who held ‘free Kashmir’ banner clarified that they want to be free of restrictions on internet services, mobile services and other issues. Also, if anyone talks of freedom of Kashmir from India then it will not be tolerated.” Raut’s comments would have surely not gone down well with the party’s core voter base as the party became increasingly unrecognisable.
Uddhav Thackeray has done so many flip flops on CAA that even the most ardent follower of the party, doesn’t know about Shiv Sena’s stance on the law. The party is leaving no stone unturned to monkey balance and keep all sides happy, as various instances of the Shiv Sena voting for a bill in Lok Sabha while voting against or abstaining from the same bill in Rajya Sabha.
After shedding the nationalistic ideology, the party then chose to keep Sonia Gandhi happy by its utter disregard of the Palghar Sadhu lynching case which shook the nation. The party then absolutely bungled their way through the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, Sushant Singh Rajput death case while also launching a witch-hunt against Kangana Ranaut and Arnab Goswami.
The final blow to the party’s Hindutva ideology came when Uddhav during his annual Vijayadashmi address made Gaumutra jokes — a move which seems to have seriously irked the party’s core voter base.
Hence, Sanjay Raut is now scaling back and trying to salvage and placate whatever minuscule voter base the party has still managed to retain. A Shiv Sena voter would have perhaps reluctantly agreed to an alliance with the ideologically opposite INC and NCP in return for the CM chair, but surely won’t withstand the party taking Hindutva and Nationalism for a ride.
Raut’s change of colours is nothing but a cry for forgiveness as he has sensed the ground reality. The upcoming BMC elections will be an interesting watch as the party will likely face the wrath of the electorate for disrespecting the state’s mandate.