Democratic politics is a team game. But even a team needs an able leader. Since big leaders cannot handle every minute affair on their own, there is an unstated understanding that the most experienced of the bunch will hold the forte. This is where Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena’s most credible name failed.
Raut was the instant cause?
The last 48 hours of Political Drama in Maharashtra had it coming. But very few have been able to track the immediate as well as long-term causes of the upheaval. Interestingly, Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena’s star spokesperson is one common knit between both causes. It is being widely reported that just before Eknath Shinde decided to change gears, he had held a meeting with Sanjay Raut and Aditya Thackeray. According to a report by Indian Express, Shinde did not want the votes of Shiv Sena’s MLAs to be utilised for the purpose of getting Congress Candidates elected as Member of Legislative Councils (MLCs).
Citing the disagreement in the meeting as the main cause of the rift, source quoted by Indian Express said, “Two days ago, when negotiations were taking place at the Renaissance hotel regarding how the votes were to be used for the Council elections, Shinde had a disagreement with Raut and Aaditya. Shinde was not amenable to the idea of using votes of Sena MLAs to get Congress candidates elected as MLCs. It turned into a heated argument between the two sides. Looking back now, it appears that this could have been a deciding factor (for the revolt),”
The disagreement on vote-sharing may be the instant cause, but the tension has been building up for too long in Shiv Sena. Apparently, Raut has ceased to be a problem solver for Shiv Sena. In fact, as it turns out, Sanjay Raut’s status is that of a trouble maker in the party.
Raut was supposed to take Balasaheb’s legacy forward
The turnaround in Raut’s status started a few years ago. After the demise of Balasaheb Thackeray, the onus was on Raut to take Shiv Sena forward. Uddhav and others were there, but Uddhav suffered (and still suffering) from a perception crisis. People of the country do not see Uddhav as a replacement of Balasaheb. In fact, Raj Thackeray’s stands and posturing are more in line with that of Balasaheb.
So, Raut took the party forward. Initially, it seems as if he would replace Uddhav in the party. His hardliner stances on the political aspect of religion sometimes overshadowed that of Balasaheb’s. For one, in 2015, he had suggested that the voting rights of Muslims should be snatched for a few years. According to Sanjay, it would stop the phenomenon of the community being used as a Centrepoint of vote-bank politics. Raut had said, “Till Muslims are used as vote-banks, they have no future. This is why Bal Thackeray had demanded that Muslims’ voting rights be taken away”
But, soon the backlash over the statement got better of him. Raut probably started to shift a little left of the ideological spectrum. Nothing else explains why Shiv Sena decided to stay mum on repeated insults made out to Balasaheb Thackeray, even in the MVA coalition. Even when Sharad Pawar announced to not celebrate the legacy of Balasaheb, there was no condemnation from either his son or Raut. Uddhav can be forgotten for being weak, but Raut cannot. As a senior member of the party, it should have been his responsibility to not let his leader’s legacy die.
Similarly, when it was getting crystal clear that Shiv Sena would be going against its core principles and would enter into an alliance with Congress, which frankly was denounced by many as anti-Hindu, Raut decided to endorse it. In fact, for the next 3 years, Raut became proactive in defending his party’s decision. As a spokesperson for Shiv Sena, his dedication towards defending the alliance at every juncture was second to none.
If his verbal attacks on BJP leaders and a statutory body like Enforcement Directorate were not enough, he had once stooped to a new low. For Mr Raut, a pro-Islamist leader like Mamata Banerjee is in the same league with Hindu Samragyi Ahilyabai Holkar, a woman singlehandedly responsible for the resurrection of Hinduism. But, that comparison is nothing for a person who had once said that India can break like the former Soviet Union.
Statements after statements, moves after moves, Sanjay Raut kept shouting that Shiv Sena is not what it used to be. Uddhav was anyway a mute spectator. No wonder, a rebellion kicked off. If anyone could stop it, then it was Raut. He is trying, but it’s hard. Damn hard.
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