The curious case of the Sena rally

This week's Shiv Sena Dussehra rally, one of the highlights of Maharashtra's political calendar, was intriguing.

And that's the least one can say. Here's why: at the state level, both Shiv Sena and the BJP, despite being the principal opposition alliance, have not been able to target any single political party as their Enemy No 1.

Because, in a war, even if a political one, you need to tell the electorate who your enemy is, and launch an attack against the most powerful figure from the opposite side.

The Shiv Sena, a party that rode on anti-establishment waves for their entire career except when in power during the mid-1990s, enjoyed tremendous support from every part of Maharashtra, except the western region.
But once the saffron combine was unseated from power in 1999, Sena has never hidden its love for NCP supremo Sharad Pawar or even for Congress chief ministers like Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Their hatred was directed mostly towards Raj Thackeray, Uddhav's cousin and Balasaheb's nephew.
Since 2005, he trudged a different path and jolted the saffron combine winning 13 assembly seats and ensuring their defeat in around 42 seats in the 2009 general elections, a fact that even Sena and BJP leaders acknowledge.
But, on Thursday, at the rally in Shivaji Park, Sena voices did not utter the name of the estranged cousin despite him being viewed as threat number one: someone who can oust the saffron alliance from holding the reins of the municipal corporation in Mumbai.
Instead, the Sena targeted Congress leaders. This change of heart was somewhat unfathomable for the Shiv Sainiks, as they see that the real threat to them is from the Raj, not from the Congress or NCP.

For the second generation of leaders from the Sena, the rally should be an eye-opener.

For it is still the Thackeray patriarch who pulls in the crowds, not his son Uddhav or grandson Aaditya. This, perhaps, is not a good sign for the party if it is to forge a new future.

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