Dharmendra Jore: Shiv Sena's new approach to conflict

Shiv Sena’s generation-next is embracing the democratic route when protesting instead of flexing muscles on the city’s already-troubled streets

Aaditya Thackeray is choosing the route of peaceful protests instead of relying on brute force
Aaditya Thackeray is choosing the route of peaceful protests instead of relying on brute force

Shiv Sainiks protesting peacefully is a dichotomy, but the new breed of Sainiks under youth wing chief Aaditya Thackeray may be taking the road less traveled. In a peaceful protest rally, this new generation of Sainiks chose to articulate their opinions instead of flexing muscles.

Democracy is the new currency
Consider this. When a journalist-turned-lawyer-turned-sainik was asked why they decided to stage a morcha against their own government, he countered that it was the only way they deemed fit to protest in a democratic country. “Did you expect us to beat up government officials or the respective ministers who are dilly dallying our demands for education reforms?” he said.

But isn’t the Sena part of the government in power? “We are trying to pressure the government in a democratic manner. Let’s hope that the government invites us for a dialogue. Please don’t expect any violence from us,” he added.

A welcome change, isn’t it? Sena’s generation next is talking democracy. Not many recall the Sena staging a peaceful morcha in the recent past, but a majority associates the party with a raada (violence) culture. Aaditya’s morcha stood out even more vividly in light of some senior sainiks’ violent attack on BJP Member of Parliament, Kirit Somaiya. The march was also in tune with Sena president Uddhav’s Dussehra rally speech, which, for a change, demanded justice for the poor and underprivileged, among many other things.

Grassroots approach
Senior Sena leaders say that the party’s youth wing consists of children of die-hard sainiks and a sizable number of newcomers from non-Sena families that Aaditya has attracted through his own efforts. The march offered one of the rare moments in which a member of Thackeray family took to the streets to lead an agitation.

To understand this development, I recall Aaditya’s response to one of these columns in June this year when he was criticized for not leading from the front. He had said then: “It is very kind of you to see me as the prince or the king or the heir. I am none. I will be none. I am just one — just one of the many citizens who have a platform and means to work for the society at large, and selfishly as a young man — what most of my age would want.”

It seems Aaditya understands the power of youth that strengthened his grandfather’s Sena in its prime. That generation of the past split a decade ago, and whatever is left of it in the Sena, has lost steam.

Power play on display
The dynamics of power changed with long-time ally BJP turning into the Sena’s major opposition. For the Sena, fighting an opposition that shares an ideological advantage (read Hindutva) has proved to be a tough task. It now finds itself in an awkward situation wherein the BJP has launched a series of allegations of corruption in the BMC, which goes to poll next February. The Sena is baying for BJP’s blood, but it can ill afford to resort to raada every now and then because the BJP commands the law enforcement agencies.

As of now, nobody knows the fate of the Sena-BJP alliance in the BMC. However, before anything happens on this front, the Sena has strategically put Aaditya in the fighting cage. Whatever the outcome — poll pundits foresee the Sena doing well again this time — Aaditya should be firm in the saddle.

In the meantime, we can only continue to remind Aaditya what he told mid-day, “My upbringing by my grandparents and parents has always taught me to be one amongst the family of sainiks, not as their king. As a matter of being thankful, my father and I bow down in reverence to the sainiks. Political parties aren’t about expectations of behaving like kings, it is about living up to the expectations of the people from us as political parties.”

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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