Bal Thackeray & the Rise of the Shiv Sena

This could probably be because the outfit has never cared much for democratic ways, for its survival and internal working. This idea was further enhanced with flip-flops on various issues. Despite a love-hate relationship with other political outfits, its leaders and people who matter most, Thackeray succeeded in maintaining his iron grip over the organisation and his followers.

Bal Thackeray
Bal Thackeray & The Rise of the Shiv Sena, Vaibhav Purandare, Rs 499, Roli Books. Available at leading bookstores. 

Bal Thackeray & The Rise of the Shiv Sena, written by senior journalist Vaibhav Purandare, is an attempt to throw light on such issues with a perspective on the past of the organisation. Purandare, a resident of Girgaum, which is considered as the heartland of Marathi culture in Mumbai, and where Shiv Sena always enjoyed a huge following, tries in his book, to visualise the Sena-unleashed terror in the city, the people attached with it and their affection towards Thackeray and his dictatorship.

The book, through its 32 chapters, is a narration of incidents and developments that took place since 1966, the year in which Thackeray formed the Sena. Being a close observer, the author offers glimpses from the history of the Shiv Sena with comments in between by a few prominent faces from the socio-political field that were related with specific incidents of that time.

There are a few crucial points in the book that missed a public debate: how former President Giani Zail Singh reacted to situation in Mumbai during the riots that broke out soon after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the outburst by Sena leader Diwakar Raote before the members of traders’ community from his area find mention in the book.

For those who wish to go into the Sena’s growth during 1960s and ’70s and its short-lived alliances with other political parties for elections, the book offers a good account of events. It offers better understanding of the developments that led to the Sena consolidating its position in Mumbai. But, it stops short of enabling us to understand the anatomy of a fierce organisation that evoked as much love as hate.

Apart from the efforts taken by Chhagan Bhujbal to take the organisation to villages and issues that Sena pursued in Mumbai as narrated by the author, it would have been of great interest to go into details on how Sena groomed its leaders such as Anand Dighe in Thane, and relied mostly on Mumbai based leaders to expand the party base in rural parts of the state. Besides, this was party that ruled India's financial centre but always missed an agenda for economic growth and its role in shaping up the metropolis.

The book also misses Sena’s foray into Delhi’s politics, its identity at the national level and how its Lok Sabha members dared to flout the party line to save Congress government in 1990s. One of the most interesting parts for critical analysis could have been that the nominations to the Rajya Sabha, as most of the faces that the Sena picked up were non-Marathis. 

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