If Bal Thackeray was alive, would Shiv Sena's fortunes be different?
news Saturday, January 17, 2015 - 05:30
The News Minute | November 17, 2014 | 6.30 pm IST Its been two years since the death of Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray, two years that saw his son and the party going through much turbulence. From ugly rows with the MNS to a split with the BJP, the Shiv Sena has witnessed a lot of political upheaval, but would things have been same for the Shiv Sena if Bal Thackeray was alive? Had Bal Thackeray been alive, there is the possibility that the BJP would not have ended its alliance with the Shiv Sena, his biographer Sujata Anandan says. Author of the book Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Hindu Hriday Samrat,Ă˘â‚¬Âť Anandan feels that had Bal Thackeray been alive, there was a good chance that the BJP might not have broken its 25-year-old alliance with the Shiv Sena. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Of all the alliances that the BJP has, Shiv Sena shares (the BJPĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s) saffron space, unlike the Akali Dal or the TDP. Earlier, the BJP could not divide this space, but now it cannot share that space,Ă˘â‚¬Âť explains Anandan. She says that there was an impression in the BJP that Uddhav Thackeray was incompetent and he did not know how to run things. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“The BJP finally ended the alliance because they thought that they could decimate the Shiv Sena,Ă˘â‚¬Âť she elucidates. Bal ThackerayĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s legacy After the Shiv Sena and BJP parted ways, the BJP is still uncertain of how much support Bal Thackeray has among Marathi people. ThatĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s why she quotes, Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Even today Narendra Modi hasnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t said one nasty word about Bal Thackeray even though Uddhav Thackeray has been very offensive towards Modi,Ă˘â‚¬Âť Anandan says. Today, the BJP is playing it safe in Maharashtra although the BJP had expected that Shiv Sena would be decimated after the Assembly elections, but that did not happen. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“When Uddhav Thackeray fought the assembly elections under his fatherĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s name, he said that his fatherĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s blessings his all he had. With just 20 days after the alliance was broken, Uddhav Thackeray won 63 seats out of 188 seats. Uddhav is half a man his father was, but even Bal Thackeray could not have managed to achieve this,Ă˘â‚¬Âť Anandan says. Vary of this, the BJP even today have not criticised Bal Thackeray openly. Anandan also draws parallels between the prime minister and the man who fashioned Hindutva into a political tool. Narendra Modi is today what Bal Thackeray was 40 years ago, says Anandan. According to her, ThackerayĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s supporters Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“adoredĂ˘â‚¬Âť and Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“lovedĂ˘â‚¬Âť him, but not all of them bought into the idea of Hindutva. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“It was very clear to Thackeray that Hindutva was the way to go. In the 1980s, he launched an extreme anti-Muslim rhetoric which even the BJP was uncomfortable with. The BJP only began to use Hindutva in the late 1980sĂ˘â‚¬Âť Anandan says. Giving the example of Dr Ramesh Prabhu, who was ThackerayĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s personal physician, Anandan says that even though the man Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“lovedĂ˘â‚¬Âť Thackeray and contested elections, he was not comfortable with ThackerayĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Hindutva rhetoric. During the run up to a by-election Prabhu contested and won, Thackeray had made speeches that were vitriolic and used religion to obtain votes. Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“Today, Prabhu is a deeply embittered man,Ă˘â‚¬Âť she says, because the results were challenged by his opponent who was a Congress candidate. The Bombay High Court held that religion had been used to obtain votes and the Supreme Court too had upheld the ruling. As a fall out of that case, Anandan says Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“PrabhuĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s political career was destroyed. He was unable to contest elections for 10 years; a lot can change in 10 years.Ă˘â‚¬Âť Thackeray used both Hindutva and Marathi identity politics to build his support base but a major chunk of his popularity came from his ability to identify with the Marathi identity. Similarly, Anandan says that Modi is a Ă˘â‚¬Ĺ“larger than lifeĂ˘â‚¬Âť version of BalÂ Thackeray.